In A shocking loss for the air force, one of its most modern special operations C-130 J aircraft crashed Friday during a low-level, tactical training mission, killing all five crew and destroying the plane.
The aircraft, inducted in 2010, was commanded by Wing Commander Prashant Joshi, an experienced pilot and the second-in-command of the 77 ‘Veiled Vipers’ squadron. It had three other pilots on board, including one who was undergoing training.
Sources said the C-130 J was part of a two aircraft formation that had taken off from Agra and was to carry out low-level flying training before returning to base. Official and eyewitness accounts said the aircraft apparently grazed a hillock before crashing in a riverbed site 116 km west of Gwalior on the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border.
“The aircraft, numbered KC 3803, was the number two of the formation and was carrying out a tactical flying training mission. The loss of the aircraft was ascertained by the lead aircraft and rescue choppers were sent from Gwalior,” an air force officer told The Indian Express.
What has come as a surprise is that the aircraft was believed to be in good technical condition and did not give out any distress signal before going down. “The crash was sudden and there was no indication from the crew that anything was wrong,” the officer said.
While a court of inquiry that has been ordered will rely on flight data information from its black box as well as the account of the lead aircraft of the formation, the investigation is expected to focus on a controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) situation or a sudden loss of control due to a technical or human error, among others.
Accounts from the ground said the aircraft was observed to be flying low and hitting a small hillock before disintegrating and catching fire on a river bed. Local villagers were the first to reach the site and recovered the bodies of the crew who were thrown out of the aircraft after it disintegrated on impact.
The crew has been identified by the air force as Wing Commander Prashant Joshi (Pilot), Wing Commander Raji Nair (Co-pilot), Squadron Leader Kaushik Mishra (Pilot undergoing training), Squadron Leader Ashish Yadav (Navigator) and Warrant Officer KP Singh (Systems Operator).
“Events like these are painful reminders of the inherent risks which our brave air warriors face in the execution of our daily mission,” Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said, adding that “the best pilots have been chosen to fly these aircraft”.
“The C-130J is a modern aircraft which was inducted into the IAF in 2010. In the last three years of its operations we have exploited capabilities of this aircraft during Uttarakhand floods and landing at DBO, which is the highest landing ground in the world,” he said.
India has six C-130 J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft that were inducted starting 2010. The cost of the fleet was $962 million and India is processing an order of six more such aircraft.
the C 130J is known to be a hardy, tough aircraft capable of landing in short, unprepared runways, and the crash has shocked the air force as it was the plane of choice for tough missions.
While the C-130 airframe has been in service since the 1950s, the ‘J’ variant is the latest in the series and is considered to be one of the safest in its class. The only other incident of a C-130J crashing was in March 2012 when a Norwegian air force plane crashed into a mountain range in an accident that was later attributed to air traffic control and pilot error.