The tri-service inquiry, headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, has ruled out any major structural failure or technical snag in the twin-engine chopper as well as any kind of sabotage or missile attack for the crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on December 8, sources said.
The crash was technically described as a case of “controlled flight into terrain” in the report and presentation made to defence minister Rajnath Singh by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari and Air Marshal Singh on Wednesday, sources added.
An accident that takes place when the pilot loses situational awareness and unintentionally hits an obstacle – ground, mountain, tree or water body – despite being in full control of his helicopter or aircraft is called CFIT, as was reported by TOI earlier.
Both the defence ministry and the IAF did not make a formal statement about the inquiry report, refusing to clarify whether standard operating procedures were flouted or there was an “error of judgment” on the part of pilots.
Sources said the Mi-17 V5 chopper was flying at a low altitude when it entered a rolling cloud cover that drastically reduced visibility. In the process of trying to fly out of the cloud cover, the chopper hit a cliff and crashed.
The two pilots, Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan and Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh, were both in the “master-green” category, signifying their top rating in terms of flying and experience.
No distress or other calls were apparently made to the ground stations when the chopper entered the cloud cover. Among other measures to improve VVIP flight protocols and SOPs, the inquiry report has recommended that the crew on such flights should be a mix of master-green and other categories to ensure they seek help from the ground stations if required.
The ill-fated Mi-17 V5, which had taken off from Sulur airbase with Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika, military adviser Brigadier LS Lidder and others, crashed seven minutes before its scheduled landing at the Wellington helipad.
The probe also analysed the chopper’s black box (flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder) as well as a video filmed by some tourists that showed the Mi-17 V5 disappearing into clouds just before it crashed. TOI had earlier reported that the combination of bad weather and the hilly terrain in the Nilgiri Hills was probably the main reason behind the crash. Flights to the Wellington helipad are undertaken under visual flight rules, which basically means “see and avoid”.
CDS crash inquiry: ‘Loss of situational awareness’ by pilots | India News – Times of India