Updated: December 18, 2021 10:47:20 am
Responding to a question regarding the crash of a Rudra Advanced Light Helicopter-Weapon Systems Integrated (ALH-WSI) in the Ranjit Sagar Dam near Pathankot in August this year which resulted in the death of its two pilots, the Ministry of Defence informed the Lok Sabha that there is no restriction on the helicopter flying over water.
Making the statement in response to questions by Congress MP Manish Tewari regarding the crash, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt stated that while there is no restriction, flying low over water needs specific authorisation. He added that a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the crash.
Lt Col A S Batth and Captain Jayant Joshi of the Army Aviation Squadron based at Mamun military station near Pathankot were killed when their Rudra ALH-WSI helicopter crashed in the Ranjit Sagar Dam on August 3. The body of Lt Col Batth was found nearly two weeks later while it took 75 days and a massive search operation by the Army, Navy and the NDRF to locate the body of Captain Joshi.
The Congress MP had questioned whether it was a fact that the pilots were not given specialised training required to fly over water. He had demanded to know the reasons for this if this was true and the corrective measures put in place by the government in this regard. He had also asked if it was true that the helicopter was not meant to fly over water at low altitudes and yet it was ordered to do regular sorties over the vast Ranjit Sagar Dam.
In his reply, the minister said,” The training has been structured to meet the operational requirements. However, operations over large expanse of water are restricted and generally are a fraction of the total overall flying. Nevertheless, all recommendations of the court of inquiry are implemented to avoid the recurrence of accidents.
He had blamed lapses on the part of the Army authorities for the death of his son. Harish also said in his letter that he was told that the Ranjit Sagar Dam was the only area available for low flying as it was free of obstacles.
“If that is the case, did anyone responsible for running the affairs of Army Aviation… realise the basic survival training needs of the men and provide them with the necessary safety gear before sending them flying over water? Were they not aware of these needs? Did they not know that their pilots were risking lives by flying over a vast water body every day? They did know but chose to ignore and disregard these critical requirements,” he wrote.
The father said that flying over water requires specialised training about depth perception, which is different from flying over land, owing to reflection from water surface. If not trained, a minute miscalculation about the depth on the part of the pilots may cause them to hit the water and crash, he added.
“I am told that as per cockpit voice recorder/flight data recorder (CVR/FDR) analysed by the court of inquiry team, flying very low and deeply engrossed in acquiring the target, and aligning it on to the integrated weapons, both the pilots did not realise that they were going to hit the water. In plain words, they missed the depth perception and crashed… In my opinion, since they were not trained for depth perception, the crash was inevitable,” the letter claimed.
Meanwhile, in his reply to the MP, the minister gave out data on helicopter crashes involving Indian armed forces personnel over the last five years. A total of 15 helicopter crashes took place between 2017 to 2021, resulting in the death of 31 persons. Seven of these crashes involved Air Force personnel while another seven were of the Army and one was of the Indian Navy.
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