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Mi17 helicopters "extremely reliable": Eastern Air chief

Mi17 helicopters

SHILLONG (PTI): After air carrier Pawan Hans rejected criticism of the Arunachal government over the airworthiness of its helicopters, Indian Air Force on Thursday supported the aviation agency, saying that the Mi17 choppers, involved in the crash that killed 17, were "extremely reliable".

He also said that the IAF was procuring an advanced version of the same choppers.

Pointed to reports that the Mi17 planes were outdated, the Eastern Air Command chief Air Marshal K K Nohwar said, "Of course not. It is not outdated. It is extremely reliable.

Their flying hours goes into millions of hours. In fact, the Indian Air Force is going for an advanced version of the helicopter the Mi17 B5."

"One (pilot) must respect the weather. One must respect the capability of the aircraft and not venture into the areas which are beyond his capability," Eastern Air Command chief Air Marshal K K Nohwar said, responding to a query on the Tawang crash that killed 17 people on Wednesday.

Specifically asked if the skies of Arunachal Pradesh were dangerous for flying keeping in view the frequent air crashes there, Nohwar said, "It’s not like that. It’s not so.

Let’s not make a bogey out of this. It is only a matter of coincidence that two crashes occurred within a period of five months."

"We have to sustain these areas. Let us not build fear in the minds of the pilots unnecessarily," he advised.

He said if "one finds the weather is within his capability, then he can penetrate it."

"The IAF has no details as of now (on the crash). But preliminary reports suggest there could be a technical failure. Let’s wait for the finding of the inquiry," he said.

The Air Marshal, however, maintained that in case of a technical failure, one cannot do anything. "There is only one in a million chance that that it can survive (in case of technical failure). It’s a machine after all. In case anything goes wrong, you have little time to react," Nohwar said.

Twelve Defence personnel were killed in a Mi17 crash near Tawang last November. An An-32 plane went down near Mechuka, also on the China frontier in Arunachal, killing 13 personnel two years back.

Arunachal has witnessed a large number of air crashes since World War II, when the Allies lost many aircraft in these Eastern Himalayan Mountains.

In 1997, then minister of state for Defence N.V.N. Somu and three army officers were killed in a helicopter crash near Tawang.


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