NEW DELHI: India-made Dhruv helicopters sold to Equador have suffered accidents recently, prompting an order of "restricted" operations on the remaining ones, a development that could cause concern to the government which is planning expansion of export of military hardware.
Ecuadorian Air Force had bought seven Dhruv helicopters from state-run HAL in 2009 under a deal estimated to cost about USD 45 million. Two of them had crashed earlier while two suffered accidents recently, in a span of about a fortnight.
"Three aircraft have had their operations restricted because they are undergoing a complete check," Security Minister Cesar Navas was quoted as saying by El Universo newspaper after the accident on January 27.
Dhruv helicopter FAE 605 allegedly caught fire in Ecuador's Amazon region on January 27 after taking off at a military base in Tena, according to local media.
Two people were injured in the mishap.
It was the fourth Dhruv to suffer an accident since 2009.
Incidentally, this mishap occurred at a time when an Indian team was already there to probe the incident that took place on January 13.
"Our team is already there to investigate what has happened. The incident happened during training," HAL Chairman R K Tyagi told PTI referring to the January 13 accident.
Official sources said another General Manager (Repairs and Maintenance), has now being sent to the northwestern South American country following the second accident.
They said the joint probe team will look into all angles including technical and human error.
A major accident happened in February 2014 when a Dhruv, assigned to the Air Force and sometimes used to transport President Rafael Correa, crashed on a flight from Guayaquil to Quito, killing three of its four crew members.
Earlier in October 2009, one helicopter crashed while making a low pass during a military ceremony in Quito, injuring the pilot and co-pilot.
Dhruv helicopters were inducted into the Indian military in 2002.
HAL has grand plans for the helicopter and has already exported it (inlcuding civil and military variants) to few countries including Maldives, Mauritius and Nepal.
The development is likely to cause concern to the government which has intention of expanding export of military hardware as there can questions on quality.