DGCA asks heli-operators to avoid tough terrain in VIP sorties

The operators have been advised "to ensure that VIP sorties (are) avoided over dense forests or difficult hilly terrain where emergent landing or search and rescue become difficult in case of any eventuality," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in a recent operations circular.

If such terrains cannot be avoided, "cruising level should be such that two way RT (Radio Telephony) contact is maintained in order to ascertain approximate location of helicopter at any given time," it said.

The DGCA identified areas where emergent landings or search and rescue operations were difficult and asked the operators to "take cognizance of such areas while planning the flights".

The directive, part of a series of new rules and procedures on helicopter operations, came after the report of the probe into the chopper crash in the thick hilly forests of Rudrakudru in Andhra Pradesh a year ago, that claimed the lives of then Chief Minister Y S R Reddy and four others.

But helicopter professionals urged the government to review the new safety rules for chopper operations by state governments and state-owned firms, saying the high recurring costs may not be affordable by them.

The rules or Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) covered a wide range of issues including helicopters, their airworthiness, organisational, operational and safety requirements. They also covered aspects ranging from aircraft acquisition to employment of pilots, crew and engineers and their training.

The Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI), an organisation of helicopter professionals, representatives of operators, manufacturers and other related service providers, has suggested a review of this CAR.

It said most state governments or operators, which own one or two choppers, may not be able to meet the recurring financial implications of about five crore per annum on this count, apart from the actual operational expenses.

While RWSI favoured raising investments on safety and related issues, it pointed out that many state governments which have acquired their own choppers would now be required to set up their own operations department with a set of pilots, crew and engineers, safety and operations officers.

"This entails enormous recurring financial implications of about Rs 4.5 crore to Rs 5 crore per annum," RWSI President Air Vice Marshal K Sridharan pointed out.
Of the 14 state governments which own helicopters, 12 have one or two helicopters only. "Can they all afford to meet" this high cost, he asked.

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