GUWAHATI, April 20 � Though it is not possible to ascertain the real reason for the tragic helicopter crash in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, in which 17 persons lost their lives yesterday, flying in high altitude areas is always much more difficult than flying over the plains, observed Air Marshal (Retd) PK Borbora.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Air Marshal Borbora, who recently retired as the Vice Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, said that the real reason for the crash would come out only after a thorough investigation is completed. Admitting that flying in high altitude is much more difficult than flying over the sea level, he said: �However, I am not saying that it is wrong to fly in high altitude as this has been done over the years.�
Air Marshal Borbora revealed that while flying over high altitude, the reserve power of the chopper available to the pilots is much less and if anything goes wrong in the air, it is difficult to control the craft. He refuted that Arunachal Pradesh is most vulnerable for chopper crashes and pointed out that same kind of problems are faced by the pilots while flying over other such areas and Ladakh area also witnessed a number of crashes.
It may be mentioned here that yesterday�s chopper crash was the second major crash in Arunachal Pradesh within the last six months as 12 persons died in a major chopper crash of the Indian Air Force in November last year.
Giving another major problem of flying in high altitude, Air Marshal Borbora revealed that while flying over plain areas, a pilot can try to force land a craft whenever any problem is detected in the air. But this is not the case while flying over hilly terrains as a pilot can rarely find a plain area to force land a chopper. A number of accidents occurred in the hilly areas because of the fact that the pilots did not find suitable areas to force land a craft after developing problems.
Air Marshal Borbora further pointed out that the weather condition in the hilly terrains is also another major challenge as the possibility of the weather changing fast cannot be ruled out. He revealed that in high altitude, the weather normally deteriorates in the afternoon hours, and clouding is a major problem. He said that the air also becomes more turbulent and bumpy in the afternoon hours. He pointed out that the Air Force always tries to complete its regular chopper sorties by 1 pm in Arunachal Pradesh because of the deterioration of the weather condition in the afternoon. �I am not saying that one should not fly a chopper over the hilly terrain in the afternoon, but the fact remains that the Air Force tries to complete the sorties in the forenoon as aborting a mission results in wastage of the sortie.�
It may be mentioned here that the accident took place at around 1.55 pm when the weather normally starts deteriorating.
The tragic accident also raised speculations about the safety of the MI 17 choppers. But Air Marshal Borbora pointed out that MI 17 is generally considered a very safe chopper and the safety equipment are also considered good enough. He said that the Indian Air Force has been using MI 17 choppers for years and �we are quite satisfied with the performance of the chopper.� He further pointed out that MI 17 is the most widely used chopper all over the world and different countries and even United Nations are using the choppers. Any machine can develop a snag but that does not mean that MI 17 is an unsafe chopper, he added.