Monday, October 02, 2017

BSF pilot raises red flags: Trainees flying VIPs, planes unkept

New Delhi: On July 4 this year, MoS Home Kiren Rijiju had a narrow escape when his Mi-17 helicopter made an emergency landing in Arunachal Pradesh due to bad weather. Rijiju thanked the pilots for saving his life. What he didn’t know, perhaps, was that one of the pilots flying him was an uncategorised (or trainee) pilot.
Now, one of the pilots of the BSF’s Air Wing has written to its top brass, alleging that like Rijiju, several VIPs, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, have been flying in unsafe conditions, with uncategorised pilots flying VIPs, aircraft not being maintained properly and standard operating procedures of flying and safety not being followed.
The BSF Air Wing has eight Mi-17 V5 choppers and an Embraer, largely to fly VIPs and for rescue of injured personnel during anti-Naxal operations.
The letter, written by Wing Commander Yogesh Kumar Daksh, has pointed out that since June 2015, not a single flight safety meeting has been held, the Air Wing does not even conduct pre-flight medical check-ups of pilots and, in the name of base operations, it has a telephone operator doubling up as control room.
The letter dated August 15 is addressed to the BSF’s IG (Air) and points out that the choppers are registered under military rules and fly under SOPs issued by the Indian Air Force.
“In the last few months it has been observed that there has been gross dilution in adherence to these orders and SOP. This trend may lead to serious accident/incident, jeopardising the life and safety of the aircrew and passengers involved in flying,” says the letter.
It points out a serious safety issue when it says that the BSF Air Wing does not have a single Infra Red (IR) Flare to thwart being targeted by missiles. “The BSF Air Wing is not even holding a single IR flare on its inventory and the helicopters are frequently tasked to fly without IR flares fitted, even at times with VIPs on board,” the letter says.
IR flares are used as a protection against heat-seeking missiles. They are released to divert an incoming missile.
02/10/17 Deeptiman Tiwary/Indian Express

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