Monday, March 14, 2022

Five pilots die in six months; no decision yet on ageing copter

New Delhi: At least five Army pilots have lost their lives in air crashes in the past six months. A helicopter that crashed on Friday in the Gurez sector of Kashmir, killing its pilot Major Sankalp Yadav and critically injuring the co-pilot, was the third fatal crash for the Army Aviation Corps since September last year. Two of these involved single-engine Cheetah helicopter.

Major Yadav was the fifth pilot to have lost his life in crashes in six months. On August 3 last year, an HAL-built ALH-WSI Rudra twin-engine copter crashed into the lake of Ranjit Sagar Dam across the Ravi. Lt Col AS Baath and Capt Jayant Joshi lost their lives in the crash. Their mortal remains were taken out of the lake after weeks of efforts.

On September 21 last year, a Cheetah helicopter crashed near Patni Top in Jammu and Kashmir, claiming the lives of Major Rohit Kumar and Major Anuj Rajput.

For over a decade, efforts to replace the entire fleet of ageing Cheetah helicopters have failed to materialise. The project to have light utility helicopter (LUH) is progressing slowly. The Ministry of Defence placed an order of just 15 copters and called it “limited series production”. The need was of 197 copters.

Another project to plug this gap was to produce Russian Kamov 226-T copter in joint venture between Kamov and HAL. The JV was formed in 2016, but the production has not started to date.

13/03/22 Ajay Banerjee/Tribune

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