CHENNAI: It takes less than 20 minutes to fly from Sulur to Wellington by helicopter and the Mi-17V-5 is considered the one of the safest craft to fly. Mi-17V-5s are regularly used by VVIPs including the President and Prime Minister, who used the chopper to travel from the airport during a recent visit to Chennai.
Produced by Kazan Helicopters, a subsidiary of Russian Helicopters, Mi-17V-5 has hardly had one or two emergencies, requiring immediate landing. "Such emergencies could pertain to Tail Rotor failure or both engines failing due to fire. This rarely happens. In the last 30-40 years there may have been only one or two such cases," says a former air force personnel with extensive flying experience.
The helicopter, which can be deployed in troop and arms transport, fire support, convoy escort, patrol, and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions, would have been thoroughly checked before being used to transport VVIPs like Rawat. In such circumstances, it is unlikely a technical snag caused the crash, the expert said, positing weather conditions as a reason for the mishap.
Usually, during the training of pilots, there is a golden rule for pilots while flying in the hills and during cloudy weather. "If you are in clouds, you should be out of the hills and if you are in the hills there should be no clouds around," the former Indian Air Force pilot said. This was the mistake committed during the Mi17 V-5 crash during the Uttarakhand landslides in 2013 in which 20 lives were lost.
"The pilot then flew into the clouds and as such he could not see the hill. In the Coonoor crash, if there was an emergency, the pilot would have dropped the speed if visibility was poor. But seeing the impact and crash, it has all been burnt. The chopper seems to have impacted the ground at a high speed. The aircraft usually never falls like a stone," the former pilot in Chennai said.
"There is a lot of power available due to the rotor, blade and through auto rotation, it will be a controlled speed. It will topple, it will be damaged. But not to the extent of this crash, where everything is burnt. Without his realising the pilot could have hit a hill with hardly any time maneuver. He would have visualised the hill within a distance of 200 or 300 metres, which is hardly enough to reduce the speed when you are flying at 210 kilometre per hour," said the former pilot.