The tragic crash of a Mi-17V-5 helicopter that killed Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others has confused many former army officers who promised the aircraft reliability. “The flight time from Sulur to Wellington is only 20 to 25 minutes. It is very difficult to determine what could go wrong in such a short flight time,” said Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major, former chief of the Indian Air Force, who included it. Helicopter, told NDTV.
The height of the helipad in Wellington was not too high, about 5,000 feet, he said, noting that there should have been no problem landing in the situation.
General Rawat was on his way to visit the Defense Staff Academy in Wellington, Tamil Nadu when the helicopter crashed in Nilgiris, about 10 km from the nearest road. Of the 14 people on board – nine passengers and five crew members – only one survived.
Group Captain Varun Singh, the only survivor of the crash, is fighting for his life at a military hospital in Wellington.
Former Army officials say the Mi-17V-5 helicopters are the Air Force’s most reliable workhorse.
This is the latest version of the Russian-built Mi17 fleet of helicopters with better avionics and a large fleet of these from India, purchased and incorporated between 2008 and 2018.
Calling them “excellent” and “safe”, the former army officer and defense expert said they had been used for hundreds of hours in challenging situations and places like the Siachen Glacier. Their reliability and security have made them the preferred transport for VIPs, including the President and the Prime Minister.
Asked how we know what went wrong, the former Air Chief said the helicopter had a voice recorder and a flight data recorder, “which would give us an idea”.
The Indian Air Force has already ordered an investigation into the crash.