WITH BOTH engines of the Dauphin N3 helicopter that crashed off Mumbai Saturday now recovered intact, officials of Pawan Hans and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have ruled out the possibility of an engine explosion leading to the crash. The Dauphin is a medium weight multi-purpose twin-engine helicopter. On Monday, a three-member committee of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) collected photographic evidence of the wreckage of the helicopter recovered from the sea. Officials said they were able to find most of the wreckage by Monday evening.
“More than 75 per cent of the required debris of the chopper have been recovered. The debris include the black box (cockpit voice recorder), both engines of the aircraft, its wings and some tail pieces. Both engines are intact, which rules out the possibility of a mid-air explosion. A proper investigation of the conversation between the pilots once the black box data is decoded will offer more clues,” said a senior Pawan Hans official.
The AAIB team collected photographic evidence of the chopper wreckage that will be analysed in New Delhi according to the aircraft investigation rules. They will also decode the conversation between pilots of the chopper and the passengers on board. “As the black box was submerged in water, it is possible that retrieval of information is difficult. They may send the box to OEM Services in France that offers logistics for aircraft manufacturers,” said a senior ONGC official. Following the 2015 crash of a Pawan Hans chopper in which two pilots died, the black box was sent to OEM for better analysis of information.
Prime facie, investigations also show that the aircraft would have been at a height of almost 3,000 feet when it crashed. Without the rotor blades running, the chopper would have fallen like a stone from a great height on to a flat surface. “As the chopper was also broken into pieces, chances are that parts of the chopper may have cut through the bodies of those on board, leaving them mutilated,” said a senior ONGC official.
By Monday, some personal belongings of the ONGC officials and pilots were recovered from the sea. Belongings including two bags, a diary, two backpacks, some safety gear and a walkie-talkie were also recovered from the crash area, almost 56 km northwest of Juhu airport.
“The AAIB team already camped in Mumbai is inquiring the accident of VT PWA. Team visited the site at MSV Samudra Sevak. Team obtained SSCVFDR (Black Box). It is premature to conclude the reasons for the accident as the investigation by AAIB is underway,” said an official statement from Pawan Hans.
Pawan Hans operates seven Dauphin N3 Helicopters for ONGC’s offshore operations. These helicopters are based at Juhu airport, Mumbai and Rajahmundry that undertake passenger crew change service and production trips on a regular basis to meet the offshore requirements of ONGC.
“None of our operations has been affected. We are operating 90 trips of the offshore service using choppers of Pawan Hans and other companies in a smooth manner. We have already deployed at least 12 vessels offshore in search and rescue operations and it will continue till the other bodies are found,” said a senior ONGC official.
Coast Guard ship Samrat intimated that it had recovered aircraft parts such as the rotor blades, main gear box, the tail gear box, both engines, emergency locator transmitter from near ONGC vessel Samudra Sevak, said the Indian Coast Guard.
“The Coast Guard Dornier aircraft, flying from Daman, also continued to scan the area to search for any other debris / body parts. Coast Guard is maintaining high level coordination with ONGC in the operation and CG Ships and aircraft based at Mumbai and Daman respectively are being continuously deployed at the crash location,” said a release from the Coast Guard.