Millennium Post

Dismal state of affairs

The unfortunate news of another chopper crash broke on Friday when an Mi-17 helicopter of the Indian Air Force crashed near the remote town of Tawang, close to China border in Arunachal Pradesh, killing all seven military personnel on board. The martyrs are five IAF personnel, including two pilots, and two army men. The bodies of Wing Commander Vikram Upadhyay, Squadron Leader S Tiwari, Master Warrant Officer A K Singh, Sgt Gautam and Sgt Satish Kumar of the Air Force and Sepoys E Balaji and H N Deka from the Army have been recovered and flown to Tezpur airbase. The Russian manufactured Mi-17 V5 chopper was on an air maintenance mission and was also scheduled to drop off kerosene jerry cans at an Army camp in Yangste when the crash took place around 6.30 am when the chopper was on its way to Yangste from the Khirmu helipad near Tawang. A court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the mishap. The Mi-17 V5 (domestic designation Mi-8 MTV5) is a military transport variant in the Mi-8/17 family of helicopters. It is produced by Kazan Helicopters, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters. The aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 13,000 kg and can transport either 36 armed soldiers internally or 4,500 kg of load on a sling. Pema Khandu, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh took to Twitter to offer his condolence to the family of the Air Force personnel killed in the crash.

The matter of grave concern is such loss in peace-time operation. There is clearly plenty to do about these rather frequently occuring accidents and the need for making concerted efforts to minimise accidents and preserve our assets cannot be emphasised enough. Ironically, this mishap occurs just ahead of Air Force Day on October 8, celebrated in a grandiose way by the force. Not long ago, an Advanced Light Helicopter of the IAF had crashed at Saglee in Papum Pare district on July 4, claiming the lives of all four on board. The chopper had been deployed for lifting passengers who were stranded on the Sagalee to Itanagar route due to the road being blocked. Just earlier this year in January, the Army announced its plans to retire its oldest light-utility helicopters, in the wake of crashes that have blemished the safety record of the machines. Choppers are the lifeline of troops in high-altitude and rough terrain areas. They are indispensable and the responsibility of their maintenance and repair has to be of utmost concern and priority.

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