While IAF has ordered a probe, there are indications that the aircraft did not take off, forcing pilots to eject. The black box holds key to investigation.
New Delhi: The tragic crash of the upgraded Mirage 2000 aircraft Friday in Bengaluru, which claimed the lives of two pilots, has sent shock waves in the Indian Air Force (IAF) with multiple versions pouring in on how the accident took place.
While a formal Court of Inquiry has been initiated by the IAF to look into the cause of the accident, a number of accounts have pointed to a possible mechanical failure.
“The aircraft did not apparently get enough power for a complete take off and hence the pilots probably ejected,” a source told ThePrint.
Another source, however, added that the aircraft never really took off from the runway due to a mechanical failure and the pilots had to eject because of that.
Sources also said that the Mirage 2000 that crashed was a fully loaded one and was undergoing its second user acceptance flight. They pointed out that the aircraft was flown six times by HAL pilots and once by IAF pilots before Friday.
So far, it is believed that the pilots had to eject suddenly owing to a possible mechanical failure. One of the pilots died after he fell into the debris while another died after receiving serious injuries on impact, sources said.
Sources added that since everything happened in a matter of milliseconds, the IAF investigation report will reveal the exact sequence of events.
Immediately after reports of the crash came in, sources had pointed to the possibility of a tyre burst. This was denied by sources in the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Also read: The Mirage crash should not be played for Rahul-Modi-Rafale scam-like politics
On Saturday, Cdr K.P. Sanjeev Kumar (Retd), a former Navy test pilot and alumnus of Air Force Test Pilots School, ASTE, wrote that soon after unstick (high speed, when the aircraft lifts off from the runway), “there has been some event which forced the aircraft back onto the runway.”
The main landing gear (MLG) reportedly collapsed on impact and the aircraft careened on the runway till it tore through the arrester barrier at other end of the runway, said Kumar.
However, Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Rajeev Chandrasekhar tweeted saying his sources say one oleo (wheel) came off during takeoff and the aircraft veered off runway.
Both pilots ejected but their parachutes caught fire due to the ball of fire that erupted after the crash, he said.
My sources say Aircrft was on 2nd acceptnce air test aftr upgrade. One oleo (wheel) came off durng takeoff n it veered off runway. Pilots ejected both parachutes caught fire in the debris of a/c
If families wnt accoutblty frm HAL – wll ensure legal spprt for thm @FlagsOfHonour https://t.co/s7hCKe1Hnc
— Rajeev Chandrasekhar 🇮🇳 (@rajeev_mp) February 2, 2019
Also read: Mirage jet crash after upgrade raises serious questions on HAL ability
‘Evidence is there’
An IAF officer involved in crash investigations in the past said, “There are number of conjectures. Thankfully the crash happened inside the airport itself which means that all the evidence is there.”
Sources said immediately after the crash, an IAF team collected the flight data recorder (black box) and it is being examined.
“The black box will reveal a lot. There are tyre marks on the runway and their pattern will give an insight into what happened — whether the plane took off from the ground even for a millisecond and if it came down with a thud,” the IAF officer said on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Chandrasekhar has promised legal support to the families of pilots in case they want “accountability from HAL.”