Air tragedies not new for political leaders



Reddy, who had faced a near disaster three years ago while flying from Prakasam district to Hyderabad, was not lucky this time. On the previous occasion, the helicopter he was travelling in was caught in bad weather forcing the pilot to land on a school playground.

In the last such chopper crash involving political figures, the then Haryana Agriculture Minister Surendra Singh and industrialist O P Jindal died in a copter crash on March 31, 2005.

The then Lok Sabha Speaker G M C Balayogi had died in a helicopter crash in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh on March 3, 2002.

The mishap occurred when its pilot, unable to find an appropriate place to land because of poor visibility, made an error of judgement by mistaking a pond for a hard surface for landing the chopper.

Senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia too had met a similar end when the helicopter carrying him crashed in Uttar Pradesh on September 30, 2001, while he was travelling to Kanpur for addressing a Congress rally.

Six other people, including some journalists accompanying him, had died in the crash near Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh.

Indira Gandhi's son Sanjay Gandhi was killed when the glider he was flying crashed at the Safdarjung airport in Delhi some three decades ago, while on May 31, 1973, Congress leader S Mohan Kumaramangalam died in a plane crash in Delhi.

But there were also the lucky ones who had providential escape. The most prominent among them were the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, who escaped after the Pushpak jet nose landed in a paddy field in Jorhat in Assam on November 4, 1977.

Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress President and Union Ministers Prithviraj Chauhan and Selja had a miraculous escape in 2004 when the rear portion of their chopper broke on landing at a helipad in Khanvel, a village in south Gujarat.

In the recent years former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh survived one such accident when his chopper hit electric wires soon after taking off, while BJP President Rajnath Singh and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had a miraculous escape last year when the chopper landed close to a heap of dry grass that caught fire.

In 2001, Rajasthan chief Minister Ashok Gehlot escape after his helicopter fell on a tree in Churu district, while the then chief minister Vasundhara Raje had a narrow escape in 2007 when her plane crash landed after developing a technical snag.

Aviation experts attribute most helicopter crashes to the tendency of the pilots to operate under Visual Flight Rules relying on what can be seen from the cockpit, rather than under Instrument Flight Rules that ask the captain to depend on instrument panels.

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