A Chetak helicopter of HAL’s Rotary Wing Academy crashed this morning and both pilots escaped with minor injuries. The chopper was about to hover on a regular training sortie when it came down after spinning twice. HAL insiders say that the helicopter would have attained about 10-15 feet when the accident occurred.
Initial reports point the finger at the tail-rotor blade, considering that the chopper spun before the crash. The chopper is completely damaged and is beyond any further use. Crash fire-tenders were pressed into service and the runway was closed for operations until the debris was cleared.
The injured pilots have been identified as trainer Air Cmdr (retd) R. Assey and Capt Virendra Singh, a trainee pilot from the Indian Army. Both are being treated at the HAL Hospital and are out of danger. “They have minor bruises and we are attending to them. There are no neurological issues and the pilots are fine,” hospital sources said. However, it is mandatory to keep the pilots under observation after such an incident.
A DGCA probe will be now ordered into the accident with HAL’s assistance. A post-crash damage analysis and pre-crash-status study of the chopper will be held, in addition to probing other theories to assess what would have caused the crash.
An eyewitness said the chopper might have been hovering about 5-7 feet and the pilots could have experienced a tail-rotor- control loss, forcing them to bring the chopper down with a hard landing. The tail rotor was intact. “The entire area has been cordoned off and the DGCA team is expected from Hyderabad for the probe,” sources said.
In June this year, an Indian Navy Chetak helicopter crashed into a stream about 50 km from Eastern Naval Command Headquarters at Visakhapatnam, killing a crewmember. The pilot, co-pilot and another passenger had survived that crash. The chopper that was flying low, crashed into the stream after getting entangled in high-tension electrical wires. In May 2005, a Chetak crash was reported from a training school.
HAL’s Rotary Wing Academy has now gained notoriety for crashes with two such incidents in the last seven years. Though the Academy has got huge potential to become as one of the best in India, HAL never branded it nor gave it the required push it ought to have got over the years. “They are just running it as a ritual,” an insider said.There was no official word from HAL’s side till 3.40 pm. However, a one-para official release (below) came in the evening.