In one of the worst air tragedies in recent memory, the Indian Air Force lost nine personnel when two of its helicopters, on a routine training sortie, collided mid-air and crashed near Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat.
The two Russian-built Mi- 17 helicopters took off from the air base at 12 p.m. and crashed five minutes later near Sarmat range, eight kms from the airbase.
Dramatic television footage of the incident showed the helicopters flying almost parallel to each other and their rotors coming in contact.
While one of the choppers went down, the tail section of the other broke off, sending it spinning and crashing.
Both aircraft caught fire on impact.
Sources said the copters were flying in close formation as required by the mission objectives and they were to conduct firing practice at the range.
Nine people on board, including two pilots, co-pilots and crew member died.
“The pilots were senior officers belonging to the TACDE (Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment).
Three Wing Commanders, one Squadron Leader, one Flying Officer and four other rank officers were onboard the ill-fated helicopters,” sources said.
“Immediately after the crash, a helicopter was rushed to the site to evacuate survivors.
Only three people could be evacuated but nobody survived the tragedy,” sources added.
The exact reasons behind the crash would be found only after a court of inquiry.
“There can be 100 reasons behind the collision.
It could be a technical malfunction, air drift, vibrations or human error.
In formations, the helicopters do fly close.
During display, some machines fly even as close as 10 metres from each other,” a military aviator said.