FOLLOWING the crash of a Dauphin N3 helicopter owned by Pawan Hans off the Mumbai coast on Saturday, aviation safety experts have called for better precautionary measures by chopper services in the country. Just over two years ago, on November 4, 2015, another helicopter owned by Pawan Hans, an Aerospatiale Dauphin employed in offshore oil platform service, crashed off the coast of Mumbai. The helicopter was on night flying practice and was carrying two pilots. Only one body was found.
“The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) prepares a report after every accident. Such reports sometimes fail to zero in on the exact cause of the accident. The nature of such accidents proves that no safety recommendation is followed,” said Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation expert.
Since 2013, Pawan Hans has reported five major accidents nationwide, resulting in the deaths of five persons and minor injuries to seven on board.
Incorporated on October 15, 1985 as Helicopter Corporation of India (HCI), the company provides helicopter support services to the oil industry. It also provides services in remote areas and charter services for tourism. While the government owns 51 per cent equity in Pawan Hans, PSU Oil and Natural Gas Corporation owns the remaining 49 per cent. Last year, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved disinvestment of the government’s stake in the state-controlled helicopter services provider.
Pawan Hans has a fleet of 43 helicopters, comprising seventeen Dauphin N, fifteen Dauphin N3, three MI-172, three Bell 206 L4, three Bell 407 and two AS 350 B3 helicopters. It also operates and maintains six Dhruv helicopters belonging to the Border Security Force (BSF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
In Mumbai, Pawan Hans operates from the Juhu Aerodrome in Vile Parle (West). ONGC uses seven aircraft of the chopper service in Mumbai for its offshore operations. “A proper safety audit by the Director General of Civil Aviation could be considered. Rather than putting the onus of the accident on the fault of the pilot, the inquiry must get to the root of the cause,” said a senior safety expert who did not wish to be named.
The helicopter major plans to venture into the Maintenance and Repair Operation (MRO) business in Rohini, Delhi, and in Juhu, Mumbai. Officials said a new safety department structure is in place for close monitoring and implementation of safety management system, flight data monitoring system, and pilot training to ensure accident/incident free flying.
Pawan Hans said the organisation is currently trying its best to assist authorities in the search and rescue operations. “It would not be right to consider the pilots at fault or find technical deficiencies in the chopper until the black box or any material of investigation is found by the authorities,” said M S Boora, official spokesperson for Pawan Hans.
He added that Pawan Hans is closely monitored by various safety organisations. “We follow international guidelines of air safety. Each of our operations is assessed very closely by the authorities and we are accountable for each flight operation we undertake,” Boora added.