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Multiple military & civilian chopper crashes in past years highlight a disturbing trend for India

An Indian Army Aviation Cheetah helicopter crashed Wednesday. Several such crashes over past few yrs have jolted the military. Non-military sphere, too, has encountered many crashes.

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New Delhi: A Cheetah helicopter of the Indian Army Aviation crashed in a forward area near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh Wednesday. The army said that the helicopter was undertaking a routine sortie when it crashed.

The cause of the latest crash is unknown. However, both pilots were taken to the nearest military hospital, said the army. Reports later confirmed that Lt Col Saurabh Yadav, one of the pilots on board, who was critically injured, had passed away.

This is not the first time a military helicopter has crashed in recent times though. Over the past few years, several chopper crashes have jolted the Indian military. In the non-military sphere, helicopter service operator Pawan Hans has also encountered many crashes recently.

Another Cheetah, a multi-role, multi-purpose, and highly-maneuverable helicopter, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), crashed in Gurez, Jammu & Kashmir in March 2022.

The chopper was undertaking a rescue sortie of Border Security Force (BSF) personnel near the Line of Control in Gurez when it crashed. Major Sankalp Yadav, co-pilot of the chopper from the Indian Army Aviation, was rescuing a sick jawan deployed in a forward area.

After the crash, Major Yadav was rushed to the 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar, where he succumbed to his injuries. The other pilot was taken to the Command Hospital in Udhampur.

The reasons behind the crash remain unclear. According to reports, poor weather conditions prior to landing made the chopper “drift away” and crash.

Also read: From choppers to missiles, Modi govt cuts defence foreign shopping list, favours Make in India

5 chopper crashes in 2021 including CDS Bipin Rawat’s

In 2021, ThePrint reported that the armed forces recorded five chopper crashes — these included crashes of two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), one Cheetah, and two Mi-17 V5s.

One of the Mi-17 V5 chopper crashes took place in Tamil Nadu in December 2021. It had on board then Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.

13 people passed away as a result of this chopper crash, including CDS Rawat. The others who died included Madhulika Rawat, CDS’ wife, and several military officials of Brigadier, Lt. Col, Naik, and Lance Naik ranks.

The government ruled out any foul-play or sabotage as the reason for the chopper crash in Tamil Nadu and attributed the crash to bad weather.

More crashes between 2019-2021

In August 2021, a Dhruv ALH from the Army Aviation Corps squadron based in Pathankot crashed into the Ranjit Sagar reservoir near Kathua in Jammu. It was reportedly on a regular sortie when it crashed. Both pilots passed away.

Experts had called for a “thorough investigation” into the reasons behind the crash.

In January 2021, a Dhruv ALH crashed in Lakhanpur, a town near the entry to Jammu and Kashmir — one pilot passed away and the other was critically injured.

In 2019, a Mi-17 V5 was shot down in friendly fire leading to the death of six on-board. A Cheetah helicopter with an officer from Bhutan on board also crashed the same year.

Pawan Hans chopper crashes

Outside the military, Pawan Hans, a public-sector firm that provides chopper services for oil and gas explorations and commercial activities, has also had multiple crashes over the past two decades.

ThePrint in July reported that from 1998 to 2018, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recorded that 91 people were killed in accidents pertaining to Pawan Hans choppers.

In July 2022, a Sikorsky S-76D chopper leased by Pawan Hans, crashed into the Arabian Sea on its way to the ONGC rig at Sagar Kiran, leading to the death of four people.

The DGCA has reportedly also blamed Pawan Hans for most of its crashes in recent years.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: US grounds Chinook choppers over engine fire episodes, but Indian fleet safe


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