Chopper crash: Experts focus on compliance of safety rules

Periodic maintenance of the chopper and the choice of helipad location for flight operations require regulation, they say.

Written by Neha Kulkarni | Mumbai | Published:May 29, 2017 1:43 am

THREE DAYS after the chopper of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis crashlanded at Nilanga in Latur district, safety experts have raised questions about the compliance of chopper flying and maintenance rules. Periodic maintenance of the chopper and the choice of helipad location for flight operations require regulation, they say.

In a similar incident in December 2016, an emergency landing was called by the pilot of a chopper handled by Aman Aviation company at Aarey colony which led to a crash and claimed three lives. Preliminary evidence had pointed to ‘clutch failure’ of the chopper for the mishap.

The rules, mentioned under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), are enforced by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The guidelines, formed in 1997, describe specific rules for the periodic maintenance of choppers, seating capacity, pilots qualified to ride the chopper and other technical details. A portion of the guidelines was revised in January 2017 after the crash in Aarey which made maintenance rules for operators stricter.

Experts have quizzed whether guidelines regulated by the DGCA are being met. “The DGCA has a set of guidelines with respect to maintenance of the chopper and checks before take-off and after landing. Even while selecting the location of the helipad, guidelines must be followed. In investigative reports, the chopper’s confirmation to the rules set must be highlighted,” said safety expert Mangala Narsimhan.

In Nilanga, the chopper’s wheels got entangled into the electrical wires above the slums at Shivaji Mahavidyalaya school ground in Latur . It later fell on certain hutments in the area, destroying two-three makeshift slums.

“During flight operations, ensuring absence of obstacles around the sight also becomes important. It may not be important when a ride is scheduled under normal conditions. However, during emergency landing, it could prove to be a problem, like the presence of slums did in this case,” said another safety expert.

Others also questioned if the maps inside the chopper are updated to ensure pilots are aware of the new transmission lines in path. “The maps inside the chopper must carry exact information about the height at which new transmission lines have been placed,” added Narsimhan.

However, officials from the district collector office at Latur said that all necessary guidelines have been met. “The required guidelines as mentioned by DGCA in its report on temporary helipads were followed before the CM’s chopper’s took off. Also, as the helipad has been in use many times in the past one month, things were under control,” he said.

“Both accidents are under investigation by Aviation Accidents Investigation Bureau. Any action will be taken after reports are accepted by the government. As far as compliance to regulations by operators are concerned, DGCA keeps a check through periodic surveillance and audits,” said DGCA Joint General Manager (Air Safety) Lalit Gupta.

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