Parrikar says human error, not vintage, causing copter crash

Parrikar says human error, not vintage, causing copter crash

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said over 60 per cent crashes of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters in the armed forces were due to “human error” and not because of the aircraft’s vintage as alleged by a group of wives of the armed forces officers.

“As many as 93 (helicopter) accidents have taken place since 1986, out of which 62 per cent are due to human error and only 22 per cent are due to technical error. The rest are under investigation or reasons are unknown. I assure you no helicopter, unless it is in perfect condition to fly, will take off,” Parrikar said at a function here.

The defence minister's comments come two days after Meenal Wagh Bhosale, a Nashik-based advocate and wife of an Army officer, met Parrikar to submit a petition, seeking replacement of the ageing fleet as flying them was risky for the pilots.

Chetak and Cheetah helicopters that are of 1959 and 1969 vintage respectively, were manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under license production.

Two previous attempts of the central government to replace these choppers did not fructify. The NDA government has now announced that all these light utility helicopters will be manufactured in India with foreign collaboration.

“All countries using such helicopters have scrapped its use. Since 1960, the manufacturing of these helicopters has been stopped. More than 40 years down the line, we are still using these mainstay of our fleet. It is but obvious that such choppers meet with accidents frequently,” she said after submitting her petition.

After a fatal crash of a Cheetah helicopter in Bareilly in October 2014, Bhosale created Army Wives Agitation Group to protest against continuous use of these rotary wing platforms by the Army and Air Force. Her on-line petition seeking to scrap the ageing fleet received almost 25,000 signatures from people all over the world.

Parrikar, however, countered her claims using official statistics. “The number of accidents has actually reduced 1.5 to 0.39 per 10,000 flying hours in the last five years,” he said.

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