Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat died after IAF’s Mi-17V5 crashed near Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor on 8th of December 2021. Despite the ongoing tensions with China, the Tri-Services probe rules out chances of sabotage in the death of the top official. The Tri-Services Court of Inquiry probing the IAF chopper crash concluded that the helicopter got entangled in clouds and hit the terrain. CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 12 others were killed in the chopper crash last year.
Indian Air Force (IAF) in its official statement made it clear that spatial disorientation of the pilot in bad weather conditions resulted in the crash. The statement referring to the preliminary findings of the Tri-Services says that, “The accident was a result of the chopper’s entry into the clouds due to unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley. This caused spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in a Controlled Flight Into Terrain(CFIT).”
In Aviation, CFIT is any accidental collision with the terrain where the aircraft is under the flight crew’s full control. In such instances, loss of situational awareness is the main cause for accidents.
The Russian made Mi-17V5 is considered extremely safe and reliable and was in fully serviceable condition when it crashed near Coonoor of Tamil Nadu. Barely seven minutes to land in Wellington, the helicopter flew into the clouds and turned into a burst of flames. Reduced visibility in the Coonoor area could be one of the factors that led to the air-crew error as pointed out by the Tri-services investigation. The analysis of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder determined the most probable cause of the accident to be a CFIT. CFIT is one of the most recurring causes of aircraft crashes in the world.
CDS General Bipin Rawat was visiting the defence services staff college (DSSC) at Wellington. According to IAF officials, protocols governing the flights carrying important people are to be reviewed by the IAF.
Chief of Air staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhary commissioned the court of enquiry. The Tri-services court of Investigation is headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, country’s top helicopter pilot in the armed forces.
The Mi-17V5 is designed to carry a load of four tonnes of cargo and played a key role in IAF military exercises. The Russian helicopter can carry defence personnels and equipment required to insert assault forces behind enemy lines.
The Russian made helicopter is equipped with advanced features that enhance its survivability. Mi-17V5 has modern avionics and self defence system that includes an armoured cockpit, slots for rockets, cannons and small arms for offensive operations. It has a top speed of 250 Kmph and a range of 1180 Kilometres on additional fuel tanks.