Mi-17V-5 Twin Engine Choppers ‘Very Safe’, What Went Wrong? Court Of Inquiry Ordered

Bhubaneswar: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat’s demise in a tragic chopper crash has been of great loss to the armed forces and nation, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said today. There were 13 other people onboard in the ill-fated chopper, 12 of whom lost their lives following the crash.

India’s CDS was flying on a Mi-17V-5, which is the latest twin-engine iteration of the Russian-made Mi-17 transport helicopter and is used regularly for high-altitude operations. One of the most advanced military transports that can be used in any topography and weather, it is one of the most powerful choppers used by Indian defence forces, IAF sources said.

India owns a considerable large fleet of these helicopters that were purchased and inducted between 2013 and 2018. Defence experts have called the Mi-17 choppers – very reliable, safe, stable, and large. These are also used to ferry VIPs, including the President and the Prime Minister.

Rawat, along with his wife and seven staff, boarded a flight at Delhi for the Sulur IAF base near Coimbatore at 8:47. They landed in Sulur at 11:34 am. From there, they boarded the Mi17V5 helicopter at 11:48. At 12:22 pm, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) lost contact with the chopper, which crashed in a forest area around 7 km from Coonoor.

Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitender Kumar, Naik Vivek Kumar, Naik B. Sai Teja and Havaldar Satpal were travelling along with General Rawat. Apart from them, two pilots, a Group Captain and a gunner were onboard the ill-fated chopper.

According to information available on the website of Rosoboronexport, the chopper is designed to “carry personnel, cargo and equipment inside the cargo cabin or on an external sling, drop tactical air assault forces and reconnaissance and sabotage groups, destroy ground targets and carry the wounded”.

The only survivor, Group Captain Varun Singh, Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, is currently undergoing treatment at the Military Hospital in Wellington.

The IAF said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident. The report is expected in one month. The mortal remains of all the deceased will be brought to Delhi on Thursday.