The Indian Navy has already initiated a detailed probe into the crash of its fighter trainer Kiran Mk II aircraft in Hyderabad that took three lives, including those of the two pilots on that aerobatic show. A case under the Aircraft Act 1934 has been registered at the Bowenpally police and it should take a while for the naval officials to investigate this thoroughly. A day after the crash, which took place just before noon in a thickly populated residential area near the Begumpet airport in the heart of Hyderabad, at least three theories about the cause of the crash have been floated: 1) There was a sudden problem or failure in the aircraft; 2) the pilots lost control during the vertical dive and could not pull back; 3) the aircraft's engine could have been struck by a bird. It is up to the Navy probe team to get to the bottom of this tragic accident. The planes were performing a manoeuvre called ‘bomb burst' in which four planes do a loop in a formation, before they peel off and disperse in different directions. The Kiran Mk II aircraft and these two pilots belong to the Navy's elite Sagar Pawan team that has performed over 100 successful shows since it was formed in 2003. Both the pilots have experience of flying over 1,000 hours each and have performed extensively in such shows.

Yet considering the extraordinary stress that man and machine are put through in such aerobatic shows, the risk of accidents is naturally higher than in commercial aviation. The questions that arise are whether an aerobatic show was indeed required for an aviation summit, and more important, whether it was advisable to permit that at Hyderabad's Begumpet airport, which is set in what is now a densely populated area. The defence services use occasions such as Republic Day, Independence Day, and Air Force and Navy days to demonstrate their capabilities and enthuse young people to join the services. But it may be time to regulate more strictly aerobatic shows over the city skies. Conducting them in busy civilian airports is a problem because they are apt to disrupt regular air traffic, but that was not the issue at the Begumpet airport. After the shifting of the civilian airport to a fine new location at Shamsabad, the avian population in the area has increased and the old drill to keep them off does not continue. This seems to have enhanced the risk factor for aircraft. There is also the question of compensation to residents who have lost their property in the crash. This is not the first air show nor will it be the last. Keeping these in mind, the Defence Ministry and the Civil Aviation authorities must come up with detailed and transparent guidelines for the conduct of such air shows in future.

Readers' Editor clarifies:

It's Shamshabad, and not Shamsabad as given in the second paragraph of “Regulate air shows”. We had issued a similar correction on March 09, 2010.

More In: Editorial | Opinion