Two officers were killed as an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv of Army Aviation crashed in a forest in Bandipore district of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday evening. The chopper, which was on a night flying training mission, took off from Manasbal base at about 7 pm and crashed within about an hour after taking off.
The officers, a pilot and a co-pilot, who died in the crash have been identified as Lt Col Rajesh Gulati and Major Tahir Khan. Army officials said that the families of the two have been informed and that an inquiry has been order to ascertain the cause behind the crash.
A defence spokesman in Srinagar said: “The pilot and co-pilot who were flying in the helicopter that was on a night flying training sortie crashed around 1740 hours. The pilot and co-pilot who were on board lost their lives.’’
“The chopper took off at 7 pm from Manasbal base. It was on a night flying training sortie. The chopper lost contact after 40 minutes of flying and crashed minutes after having lost contact. A search and rescue mission was carried out by ground forces. Two officers have been identified,” said an Army spokesperson in the northern command.
“The search and rescue mission revealed that it crashed at Safapora Heights in Bandipora district of Kashmir,” another official said.
At Manasbal, Army’s Aviation wing is operating an airstrip that is used to keep an eye on the operations in north Kashmir and the Line of Control. While Gulati is a resident of Dehradun, Khan is from Hyderabad. According to sources, Gulati was an experienced pilot who was flying ALH Dhruv for “at least five years”. Army Aviation, which is the youngest arm of the Army is manned by officers drawn from the other arms of the Army.
ALH Dhruv, a twin engine chopper is manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In the most recent crashes, a Dhruv helicopter had crashed in Ecuador — which has acquired seven ALH Dhruvs from India and has lost four so far.
In July, an ALH of the Indian Air Force had crashed near Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh resulting in the death of seven personnel on-board the chopper. While technical snags have been prime causes behind the crashes, officials said that the reasons behind the present crash could be “environmental, technical or human” and can be determined only after the inquiry is complete.