Saturday, January 02, 2016

Rage against the machine

Air accidents, in aviation jargon, broadly fall under two categories: avoidable and unavoidable. If the individual at the controls fails at his job, the resultant accident is termed an avoidable one. But if a catastrophic problem occurs during the flight that was unforeseen or unexpected, leading to a complete failure of the aircraft machinery, it is known as an unavoidable disaster. Today, a question can be raised: under which category did the crash of the Border Security Force plane near the Delhi airport on December 22 last year fall? It would be neither proper nor ethical to jump to conclusions or resort to speculation at this time, but there is a need to understand and analyse the bigger picture and the repercussions that the tragedy might have on Indian aviation.

The truth is that the BSF aircraft crashed in fair weather and good flying conditions. This might give rise to questions and avoidable alarm over the functioning of the high-risk and high-valued aviation sector in India in general, and the flight safety issues of the air wing of the BSF in particular. On the morning of the fatal crash, the Delhi airport had good weather, good visibility, mild temperatures, a long runway (more than 12,000 feet) for manoeuvreake offouch-down, an absence of fog and well trained, competent pilots. Keeping this in mind, the emphatic press statement of the director-general of the BSF is likely to raise serious questions rather than provide satisfactory answers. The DG maintained that the Super King B-200 aircraft was "technically perfect" when it took off; this means that the machine was 'airworthy'. He also said, "This could have happened with anybody... Directors General and VIPs have flown in this plane." But that does not take into account the real issue: why did the crash occur? This can only be clarified after proper investigation by a professional and competent technical authority, empowered by aviation law.
02/01/16 Abhijit Bhattacharyya/The Telegraph
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