New Delhi: The helicopter crash that led to the death of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat in December 2021 was due to unexpected change in weather conditions, leading to spatial disorientation of the pilot, which resulted in Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT), the Indian Air Force (IAF) said Friday.
In an official statement, it said the tri-service Court of Inquiry (COI) has ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage or negligence as a cause of the accident involving a Mi-17 V5 chopper.
“The accident was a result of entry into clouds due to unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley. This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” it said.
Spatial disorientation is the inability of a pilot to correctly interpret aircraft attitude, altitude or airspeed in relation to the Earth or other points of reference.
The US’ Federal Aviation Administration Safety defines CFIT “as an unintentional collision with terrain (the ground, a mountain, a body of water, or an obstacle) while an aircraft is under positive control”. It adds that most often, the pilot or crew is unaware of the looming disaster until it is too late, and it most commonly occurs in the approach or landing phase of a flight.
FDR, CVR input analysed
The IAF in its statement said based on its findings, the COI has made certain recommendations which are being reviewed.
It said that the inquiry team analysed input from the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder, which are collectively colloquially known as the ‘black box’ of an aircraft, besides questioning all available witnesses to determine the most probable cause of the accident.
ThePrint had, on 5 January, reported that sudden cloud cover leading to CFIT has been identified as the reason behind the helicopter crash last month, which claimed the lives of 14 people, including Gen. Rawat.
IAF head Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, along with Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Training Command, who headed the tri-service inquiry into the crash that took place in the forest near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, had on 5 January briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the probe.
The helicopter was being flown by Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan and Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)