ALMOST a month after a private aircraft crashed into an under-construction building in Ghatkopar claiming five lives, it has emerged that its Mumbai-based owner, U Y Aviation, which had bought it for Rs 1.4 crore in 2016, spent close to Rs 6 to Rs 7 crore on its maintenance and repair.
More than 80 per cent parts of Beechcraft King Air C-90 (VT-UPZ), including its brakes, were new. The aircraft had undergone five sets of structural repairs. The family of co-pilot Marya Zuberi (47), who died in the crash along with three others onboard and one pedestrian, want the police to register an FIR against the aviation company and has called the aircraft “junk”.
While the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) is probing the crash, the family has demanded an independent inquiry. The aircraft was “actively” used for flying chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, including Mulayam Singh Yadav. Pune-based aviation company Silver Jubilee bought it in 2015 for Rs 1.3 crore. Within seven-eight months, the company, claiming lack of funds for its repairs, sold the aircraft to the U Y Aviation for Rs 1.4 crore.
“When the aircraft had suffered an accident in UP in 2009, its nose-wheel was broken. We bought it at the auction in 2016 and parked it at the Indamer’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Centre at the Juhu airport in Mumbai. We decided to sell the aircraft after realising that we would not be able to repair it as it required close to Rs 4.5-5 crore. Its parking charges also cost us much,” Ashok Shinde, director and CEO, Silver Jubilee said.
According to Indamer MRO, the aircraft was brought to their Mumbai-based office in two separate trucks. The aircraft underwent five sets of structural repairs, which involved installing new machinery and changing its brakes.
“The official work on the plane started in 2017. With due approvals from the safety body Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), we prepared a workscope for the required changes in the aircraft. Almost 80 per cent of the parts of the damaged aircraft had been bought from its US-based manufacturer Textron Aviation,” said Rajiv Gupta, CEO, Indamer. Textron acquired aircraft manufacturer Beechcraft in 2013.
The new parts that were bought for the aircraft included propellers, twin-engines, landing gears, weather radar and air dials. As the C-90 has a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR), as opposed to Flight Data Recorder found in modern helicopters, a new CVR, which could record conversation between the pilots and the Air Traffic Control for two hours, as opposed to 20 minutes, was installed.
A team of five engineers from Indamer MRO worked between January 2017 and June 2018 on the aircraft. “In May, the DGCA approved its test flight. After two months of rigorous ground tests, it was deemed ready for a test flight on June 25 that was delayed to June 28 as ‘Notice to Airmen’ was issued at the Juhu airport,” Gupta added.
The aircraft was taking its first test flight on June 28. According to sources in U Y Aviation, the aircraft was meant to be used as a heli-ambulance had it received the Certificate of Airworthiness after its successful test flight.
“Since the insurance formalities are now under way, we are not in a position to offer any comment on this ,” said Prakash Mirpuri, spokesperson, U Y Aviation.
In response to the involvement by Textron in maintaining this aircraft, they claim they have offered “investigative
assistance to the local authorities”.