Tawang crash was ‘survivable’,Dorjee pilots ‘lacked discipline’

Key findings of probes into 3 air crashes that killed 34 last year

Written by Smita Aggarwal | Published: May 3, 2012 12:43 am

* Tawang,arunachal pradesh

1.54pm,april 19,2011

Helicopter : Russian Mi-172,owned by PHHL and carrying passengers

19 killed,including co-pilot and flight attendant. Took off from Guwahati,reached Tawang,undershot tabletop helipad,sank 1m into the gorge below,and toppled to the left as commander lost control. Cabin and cockpit caught fire. Only commander,engineer and four passengers escaped out; two of the four died later.

Probe findings

Survivable accident; people died mainly due to inadequate fire services and non-availability of crash equipment and trained personnel

PHHL operated flights for two years to Tawang helipad without ensuring adequate firefighting facilities; safety violations unchecked,unreported

DGCA unable to perform safety oversight functions due to staff shortage,which has “direct bearing on safety and commercial flying activities across the country”

Arunachal Pradesh aviation department ill-equipped to safely man helipads

Helicopter flouted permissible weight limit by at least 800kg; improper flying techniques used by commander


PHHL should deploy senior flying supervisors to oversee operations in Northeast

Focus on simulator training for pilots for emergency evacuation

Review MI-172 type choppers’ category A certification

Inspect all helipads in time-bound manner,appoint flight inspectors

* Lubuthang,arunachal pradesh

2pm (estimated),april 30,2011

Helicopter: French Eurocopter,owned by PHHL,used that day to carry the CM and two others

* 5 killed,including Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu. Minutes after taking off from Tawang,helicopter disappeared over mountainous Sela Pass. Pilot may have tried to return to Tawang but hit a clouded hill. Four days later,locals spotted the debris in an uninhabited area at an altitude of 4,600m.

Probe findings

The emergency transmitter locater,which emits distress signals,failed

The crew neither filed a flight plan nor obtained weather info for route or destination

Pilots in “tremendous hurry”,under pressure to complete the task in a required time-frame,an impediment to safety

Pilots lacked flight discipline,did not maintain passenger manifest,insisted on flying over Sela Pass rather than Bhutan Valley as laid down in SOP.

PHHL operated the chopper without signing an MoU with state government; lacked operational and management efficiency; had no safety organisation


Restructure PHHL’s operations department

Fit all choppers with cockpit voice recorders,flight data recorder; weather radar,ground proximity warning systems

Have personal rescue beacons to identify locations

Set up civil aviation authority,independent accident investigation body


10.43pm,May 25,2011

Aircraft: Swiss Pilatus PC-12,owned by Air Charter Services and used for ambulance services

10 killed,including flight crew,two doctors,a paramedic and three on ground. Ferrying a critical patient and a cousin of his from Patna to Delhi,it crashed into a house during a gusty storm. Probe says it spun out of control in weather,went into a deep spiral,then descended at an alarming rate.

Probe Findings

Probable cause could be departure from controlled flight due to bad weather,mishandling of controls,spatial disorientation or a combination of these

No procedure or operation manual for medical emergencies; safety equipment carried on a case-by-case basis without planning

No procedure specified by manufacturer for using aircraft as an ambulance

No regulation according priority landing to air ambulances; no DGCA rules on such flights,medical equipment to be carried

ATC failed to provide any meaningful support; didn’t have exact weather situation


ATC should have live weather-related information

Introduce regulation for aircraft used for ambulance services

Fit all aircraft with a cockpit voice recorder or a digital flight data recorder

Set up a civil aviation authority,and independent accident investigation bureau

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