Human error was the cause for the last Sukhoi combat plane crash in December 2011 and it happened during servicing of the aircraft, a government probe has found.
Sukhoi is the most potent combat plane in the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet and in the 15 years that the aircraft has been in service, there have been three accidents. Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Parliament on Wednesday that the last Su-30MKI crash took place on December 13, 2011 and that was the only Sukhoi mishap since April 1, 2011 to December 10, 2012. Su-30MKI is the Indian-made version of the Russian-origin combat plane and it is manufactured by the government-owned HAL at its Nasik facility in Maharashtra.
“During the previous fiscal 2011-12 and current financial year 2012-13 up to December 10, 2012, one accident involving Su-30MKI aircraft took place on December 13, 2011,” Antony told the Rajya Sabha. “No pilot/service personnel or civilian was killed in the accident. Cause of the accident was ‘human error (servicing)’,” he said.
The December 2011 Sukhoi crash took place 20 km away from Pune, after the aircraft took off from the Lohegaon airbase.
The two pilots had bailed out to safety. The Sukhois are serviced by IAF personnel at air bases for minor issues, while major servicing is handled by HAL. India had inducted Su-30 in 1997, buying 50 aircraft from Russia. Since then, India has contracted with the Sukhoi Corporation of Russia for licensed production of 272 of the combat planes at the HAL Nasik facility.
The previous two Sukhoi crashes took place in 2009, the first one on April 30 at Pokhran in Rajasthan during a routine training sortie and the second on November 30 near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan While two pilots were killed in the April 30 accident that was caused by the fly-by-wire system failure, two pilots in the November 30 crash, attributed to the aircraft’s engine ingesting a foreign material, had ejected to safety.