"Aircraft dipped to dangerously low height"

The Indian Air Force aircraft that plunged into a lake on Tuesday dipped to dangerously low heights probably after developing a technical snag and the decision of the pilots to abort landing and eject to safety was prompt, a top IAF official said.

“The aircraft was flying at a critically low height…maybe just about 200 metres above the ground level. It requires a certain height to eject safely from the aircraft. The pilots' reaction was timely and effective. I am glad that they took the right decision. The pilots suffered minor injuries and are out of danger,” he told The Hindu.

Confirming that all the Kiran trainer aircraft at the Flying Instructors School, Tambaram, had airworthiness certificates and underwent periodical overhauling, he said that the flight was a routine training sortie.

On whether the remaining aircraft in the FIS would be subjected to airworthiness check following the incident, he said no such instructions had been received from the Air Force Headquarters. Training sorties continued after the crash.

“Prima facie it appears to be a technical snag. It seems that the pilots had very little time to manage a safe return to the base.”

Minutes before returning to the base (FIS, Tambaram) the pilots probably detected a technical snag and conveyed the emergency code May Day to the Air Traffic Control.

“The pilots avoided crashing into any residential building in the area and took all efforts to divert the falling plane towards the Ayyancheri lake,” a senior police officer quoted an IAF officer as saying.

Flames on water

The scene of crash was in close vicinity to a residential area.

“There are several houses along the bund of the lake on one side where the aircraft crashed. On falling, the plane disintegrated and we could only fish out some pieces,” he said.

Tension prevailed in Godavari Nagar located adjacent to the crash site after huge flames engulfed a portion of the Ayyancheri lake.

Kancheepuram Superintendent of Police S. Manoharan said the fuel that split from the wreckage of the plane spread and floated in the lake for long. Around 6 p.m., the fire emanated amidst strong winds.

It subsided on its own in less than an hour.

Police sources said the engine of the aircraft was still under water and steps would be taken to retrieve it early on Wednesday.

It was not clear whether there was a Black Box in the aircraft and its status after the crash, a police officer said.

According to defence sources, the last flight crash in the State was reported on April 28, 2011 in Krishnagiri district where an ‘Intermediate Jet Trainer' crashed during routine flight testing. In that accident too, the pilots ejected to safety shortly before the plane crashed in Udedurgam Reserve Forest.