An Army Aviation Cheetah helicopter flying an operational sortie near Mandala, West of Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh crashed on Thursday morning killing the two pilots Lt Col V. V. B. Reddy and Maj A. Jayanth. The helicopter lost contact with the ATC at around 09:15 AM.
“Five search parties of Indian Army, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) were immediately launched. The wreckage of the aircraft was found near Village Banglajaap East of Mandala,” the Army said in a statement. “With regret we inform that the pilot and the co-pilot of the helicopter lost their lives in the accident.”
A Court of Inquiry (CoI) is being ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
According to Arunachal Pradesh Police, an Army chopper, carrying a Lieutenant and a Major, lost contact midway and could not be located while it was en route to Missamari from Senge village. At around 12:30 p.m., villagers from Bangjalep under Dirang police station informed that a crashed chopper was found. Police said the area has no signal and the weather was extremely foggy with a visibility of 5 metres.
On March 08, an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH)-MK3 of the Navy was ditched at sea close to the coast off Mumbai which the Navy said was after the helicopter experienced “sudden loss of power and rapid loss of height”.
Following the incident, all ALH in service were grounded for precautionary checks. “Some ALHs have resumed flying after some checks,” a defence source said on this.
Ageing Cheetah, Chetak fleet
The ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters are in urgent need of replacement. Last October, a Cheetah helicopter crashed near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in which one pilot was killed.
The Army Aviation operates around 190 Cheetah, Chetak and Cheetal helicopters, with five of them, the oldest, being over 50 years old. A bulk of the fleet, close to 130 of the 190, are between 30 to 50 years old, as reported by The Hindu earlier.
This fleet is the lifeline in transporting supplies and for evacuations in the high-altitude areas including the Siachen glacier. In addition to the Army, the Navy and IAF too operate these helicopters. For instance, the IAF has around 120 Cheetah and Chetak and around 18 of the more recent Cheetahs.
As reported by The Hindu earlier, the total technical life of these helicopters will start finishing beginning this year which will only further exacerbate the existing deficiencies.
(With inputs from Agencies)