Source: The post is based on the article “Flight risks: Helicopter safety standards have to be strictly enforced, otherwise they are not of much use” published in The Times of India on 20th October 2022.
Syllabus: GS 3 – Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Relevance: About the helicopter fatalities in India.
News: The recent tragic chopper crash in Kedarnath that killed six passengers and the pilot adds to the list of growing helicopter fatalities over the years.
What are the major reasons for helicopter fatalities in India?
a) Checks on airworthiness and other standards such as operators flouting guidelines by flying too low or operating in poor weather are causing major helicopter fatalities in the region.
b) Despite the regulator repeatedly identifying serious violations of rules, unsafe practices continue. In hilly terrains or other ecologically sensitive areas, poorly regulated commercial choppers pose an even greater danger.
c) Issues in pilot training: Helicopters offer very little margin for error, especially single-engine choppers that have to be flown visually. Both in the Kedarnath crash and the crash in Bombay High, the pilots had recently moved to fly an aircraft type new to them. . Inadequate acclimatisation is extremely risky in challenging weather conditions.
d) The issue of old choppers continuing to be in service: Old choppers are continuing in service in many parts. Even the air force, is continuing saddled with obsolete Chetaks and Cheetahs of the 60s-70s vintage.
Overall, India is seeing a mix of pilot errors, poor machine maintenance and a weak regulatory framework resulting in helicopter fatalities in India.
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What needs to be done to reduce helicopter fatalities in India?
Kaushik Committee reports of 1991 and 2005 called for more accountability on the part of operators. This has to be followed in letter and spirit.