The Chhattisgarh government has been utilising an aircraft hired for police operations to ferry Chief Minister Raman Singh, a surprise check by the country’s aviation safety regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has revealed.
The aircraft — a Bell 407 helicopter with VT-KSA registration number — was hired from King Rotors and Air Charter Pvt Ltd by the state government to be used for police action in Naxal areas.
The DGCA inspection revealed two safety violations on part of the aircraft operator. A senior official in the DGCA said, “We have found that the pilot has been operating the aircraft in contravention of guidelines laid down by the DGCA as well as the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs). The helicopter was used to ferry Chhattisgarh CM; this is in violation of the rules that mandates a twin engine helicopter to be used to ferry Very Important Persons (VIPs).”
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The official added that they have asked the company to furnish all the details about the sorties made. “We have called the company representatives now and will also call the head of civil aviation in Chhattisgarh at a later stage,” added the official. Bell 407 is a single engine aircraft and the home ministry rules clearly state that no VIP should be ferried using a single engine aircraft.
A second official informed, “We have grounded the pilot and sought all details, including passenger manifest, from the company to ascertain the number of times Singh flew.”
As part of its initial inquiry, the DGCA has also found the pilots guilty of flouting airworthiness rules. The pilots were found to be forging pre-flight medical test certificates on two occasions on 17 and 18 February 2015.
An email sent to KNG Nair, managing director of King Rotors and Air Charter Pvt Ltd did not elicit any response till the time of going to press.
The Chhattisgarh government, too, didn’t respond.