‘CM’s pilot should have been told about wet soil’

Preliminary findings of a probe into an October 11 incident involving the helicopter of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis at Pen in Raigad have blamed the district administration for the helipad being soggy and the information not being communicated to the pilot.

The helicopter wheel sank into the soil as it landed in Pen’s Borgaon, where Mr. Fadnavis was visiting as part of his poll campaign. As per the DGCA’s election flying rules, the agency responsible should have informed the pilot of the soil conditions and the landing point should have been shifted. A DGCA official said the temporary helipad had been prepared by the Public Works Department. The aircraft was carrying Mr. Fadnavis, his personal assistant, an engineer, co-pilot and pilot.

Raigad Superintendent of Police Anil Paraskar termed the incident normal and said that as per the information provided by the pilot, there was no problem with the landing. “As there was rain some time before, the ground was muddy and tyres sank in the mud a bit. As per rules in place, the agency tasked with preparing the helipad has to convey any change in condition of the surface,” the official said.

The official said that due to the soil condition, the wheels sank two or three inches in the mud. “Though nothing untoward happened, rules in force require the pilot to be made aware of the situation,” the official said.

This is not the first time Mr. Fadnavis has had an issue with helicopters. In 2017, the Chief Minister had a narrow escape when his Sikorsky helicopter crash landed in Latur after getting entangled in overhead power lines following bad weather. After the incident, instructions were issued regarding guidelines about helipad to be selected for VVIP flying. As a result, the helipad at Pen was about 8 km away from the CM’s meeting site.

The AgustaWestland 139,(VT HLC) helicopter was chartered by the Bharatiya Janata Party from the Heligo Charters for the election campaign.

Mr. Fadnavis flew to Ulhasnagar for the next rally in the same helicopter. Earlier the same day, the CM had held campaigns in Kopergaon in Ahmednagar followed by Newasa and Jamkhed before reaching Pen.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 1:11:20 PM |

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