Two-member team starts probe into chopper crash

Two-member team starts probe into chopper crash

“The two aviation experts from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) arrived in Tawang to find out how and why the helicopter crashed,” N. Deb, an Arunachal Pradesh government official, told IANS.

According to a senior DGCA official in Kolkata, the team comprises Sanit Kumar, deputy director, regional controller of air safety and H.N Mishra, a senior official with air safety devision.

Both the experts belong to the DGCA's regional office in Kolkata. The official, however,  did not give any timeline by which the investigations would be completed.

Seventeen people were killed and six survived, including both the pilots, after a commercial helicopter crashed and burst into flames Tuesday just before landing at one of India's high altitude helipads in Arunachal Pradesh.

The chopper, owned by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL), caught fire just as it was about to land at the Tawang helipad located at an altitude of 11,000 feet, bordering China’s Tibet region.

There were 23 people on board the chopper - 16 adult passengers, two minors, two pilots, and three crew members.

The Russian-origin Mi 172 helicopter took off from Assam's main city of Guwahati for Tawang at 12.50 p.m. and crashed around 13.57 pm.

PHHL operates daily chopper services between Guwahati and Tawang and other remote locations in Arunachal Pradesh under an momarandom of understanding (MoU) signed between the public sector company and the state government.

“The six injured were airlifted to Guwahati for advanced treatment,” S.N. Musoby, police chief of Tawang, told IANS by telephone.“The 17 dead bodies were also being flown into Guwahati so that their relatives could identify and take possession of the bodies.”
All the passengers were Indians and mostly tourists.

The chopper that crashed was in service for the past 14 years after being inducted in 1997.“In aviation parlance this is not an old helicopter and was properly maintained with two experienced pilots in command,” a Pawan Hans official said requesting not to be named.

“A thorough probe would unravel the reason behind the crash. In the meantime the second Mi-172 chopper would not ply on the route as it has gone for servicing,” the official added.

In November last year, 12 army personnel were killed when a Mi-17 helicopter, on which the Mi-172 is based, crashed near Tawang just after take-off.