March 21, 2018 4:27:19 am
A SERIOUS mishap was averted earlier this month after a 12-seater helicopter carrying four people reported low oil pressure in one engine and simultaneously lost communication with the Juhu Air Traffic Control (ATC) five minutes before it landed.
The chopper, owned by private operator Heligo Charters Pvt Ltd and carrying two officials of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), eventually made a safe landing. On March 10, the Dauphin helicopter carrying two pilots of Heligo and two ONGC officials began operations from the offshore oil rig EDHOLT.
According to senior ONGC officials, the pilots detected an oil leak before they started their sortie.
More than an hour into flying, the pilots detected that the left engine of the chopper had “low oil pressure” after which they decided to undertake an emergency landing.
“They were close to the Juhu airport when one of the engines reported the issue. According to safety guidelines, they switched off the engine that faced the issue. At this time, the chopper was 40 nautical miles off shore,” an official at Juhu airport said.
Juhu airport in Mumbai handles operations of non-scheduled fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The choppers remain in connection with Juhu ATC till they are 25 nautical miles off shore.
On March 10, though the pilots tried to communicate with the Juhu Air Traffic Control (ATC), they were unable to. “During such emergencies, we guide the pilots with runway lights to ensure they make a safe landing. As Juhu airport hardly sees congestion, they were able to land safely,” a Juhu airport official said. The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating to ascertain what caused the incident.
Senior ONGC officials said the DGCA is trying to assess if the engine stopped working mid-air.
A senior DGCA official, on condition of anonymity, told The Indian Express, “Prima facie, it appears that the chopper suffered power issues during its flight. This caused the batteries to drain out which led to a loss of communication with ATC by the pilots. The case is being investigated.”
This helicopter was manufactured in 2010. Two days before the incident, on March 8, it reported an oil seepage. Captain K.Padmanabhan, CEO of Heligo, said the chopper was flown back to the Heligo base at Juhu airport after it reported an oil seepage.
“We corrected the fault, performed checks before it was flown back offshore again on March 9. The technical team of ONGC checked its safety and approved its use. It conducted at least 15 safe landings before the incident was reported at Juhu airport,” he told The Indian Express. Regarding the incident on March 10, Padmanabhan said as one engine reported low oil pressure, the pilots switched off that engine.
“It is completely safe to land with one operational engine. The pilots informed the Heligo base of an oil leak in the chopper much later in the day. The DGCA is investigating why the pilots lost communication with the ATC.”
The chopper, with call sign VT-HLM, is now grounded. Heligo flies 13 choppers from Juhu airport, including four reserved for ONGC operations.
In an official statement, ONGC said its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) are followed strictly.
“Whenever any technical snag or any other flying related issue is noticed, immediate action is taken as per SOP and the air safety norms which are benchmarked on the highest international standards. The issues are taken up not only with the concerned service provider but also with DGCA. Only after obtaining all necessary certifications as well as internal due diligence report, was the aircraft allowed to fly,” the company said.
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