The fire mishap that gutted the State government’s helicopter Augusta Westland-139 and six other training aircraft of AP Aviation Academy in December 2012 was waiting to happen, given the total disregard for the fire safety measures.

This was the view of the three-member committee that submitted its report to the government on the major fire that raged at a hangar in Begumpet Airport on December 17 night last year. “It was an accident that was waiting to happen and action should be taken against those responsible for the serious lapses -- both in the AP Aviation Corporation and AP Aviation Academy,” the committee is believed to have recommended in its report.

The committee members -- H.N. Mishra, Assistant Director, Director, Air Safety, DGCA, Hyerabad, T.P. Das, Principal Secretary, Home, I.Y.R. Krishna Rao, Special Chief Secretary who carried out a detailed inquiry -- noted that the premises did not even have ‘No Objection Certificate’ for fire safety.

No authority, either of State or Central government, had given the NOC for fire safety to the building. The State Fire Department and GHMC officials deposed that only the Airport Authority of India was authorised to issue an NOC. Apparently the AAI failed in its primary task in certifying fire safety measures of the building even after periodic inspections held by it, the committee said.

There had been a delay of over 31 years on the part of State government to construct a separate hangar for its aircraft/helicopter.

Poor maintenance

The report cited poor maintenance by AP Aviation Academy, negligence by the AP Aviation Corporation which dumped the junk parts of the Bell 430, and the security guards who had no training in fire-fighting contributed to the fire that started with a short-circuit, according to sources.

The Bell-430 was the ill-fated helicopter that crashed with former Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy and other officials aboard.

The AP Aviation Academy was the licensed user of the hangar and its office was built on the plot leased to it by the Union government. The responsibility of safeguarding the hangar and also its maintenance lies with the Academy, the committee report observed. There was no emergency response plan in place for the hangar in case of a fire after working hours. Even telephone numbers of fire station inside Begumpet airport was also not available with the security personnel. Fire spread because none knew to use fire extinguishers positioned in the hangar which also had wooden boxes, another serious lapse.

The Committee’s recommendations included construction of a separate hangar to accommodate the State government’s aircraft/helicopter and action against concerned officials of both AP Aviation Corporation and City Police Officials who failed to anticipate a fire accident and take proactive measures.

The AAI, Begumpet Airport, should have a specific yardstick for building permission and for installation of fire fighting equipment and devices including preventive equipment like smoke detectors.

The authority for issuing NOC for fire safety should be fixed within airport authority area and a mandatory annual renewal. Fire safety audit and the buildings not fulfilling the norms should not be allowed to park aircrafts were other recommendations.

Police personnel entrusted with security of the hangar should be trained to respond to emergency situations like fire accidents, natural calamities, since they are first responders.

Sources said that the committee’s report was now with the Chief Minister and once cleared, its recommendations would be implemented. The State helicopter worth Rs.68 crore destroyed in the fire was insured.

The destroyed six aircraft belonged to the Academy were worth Rs. 40 crore.

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