New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is to be briefed by Air Force officials today on the findings of the report into Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat’s helicopter crash.
A tri-services inquiry had been ordered into the chopper crash in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri Hills on December 8 that killed Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika, and 11 other armed forces personnel.
Neither the Air Force nor the government has made any statement yet on the report or its conclusions, but sources indicated to sources last week that reduced visibility due to bad weather may have contributed to the crash.
There has also been no statement or explanation so far on whether pilot error was the underlying cause of the accident, or whether rules for operating within clouds in hilly areas were disregarded.
Led by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, the country’s top helicopter pilot – believes the MI-17v5 pilot may have been left disoriented by inclement weather and accidentally flown into terrain.
This is referred to as CFIT, or Controlled Flight Into Terrain.
Sources also said the inquiry ruled out any possibility of technical errors or mechanical defects.
In the days after the crash mobile phone videos – taken by locals and shared by news agency ANI – emerged of the final moments of the chopper.
One clip shows a helicopter flying into thick cloud cover that emerged suddenly to hang over the Coonoor hills. A change in the engine sound can be heard.
The Air Force has not commented on the authenticity of this or any other video.
Sources told news agency ANI the chopper was flying at a low altitude and that the crew decided to try and fly out of the cloud cover rather than trying to land and hit the ground in the process.
The Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter – which several former armed forces officers have told sources is extremely reliable and very safe – crashed seven minutes before it was due to land.
Gen Rawat was on his way to the Defence Staff Services College in Tamil Nadu’s Wellington (near Ooty) to deliver a speech to faculty and students when the chopper crashed, killing all but one person.
Group Captain Varun Singh, a passenger on the aircraft, died at Bengaluru’s Air Force Command Hospital a few days later, after suffering severe burn injuries.
Gen Rawat, his wife, and all those on board were given funerals with full military honours, and thousands paid tribute to their memories, including the governments of major foreign powers.