Sunday, Feb 25, 2018 | Last Update : 05:29 PM IST
Eastern Command calls off Air Force Day celebrations on October 8.
New Delhi/Guwahati: Seven military personnel were killed after Indian Air Force Mi-17 V5 IAF chopper they were travelling in crashed near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday. The entire crew died in the crash.
The IAF’s Eastern Command has called off the Air Force Day celebrations on October 8.
Their bodies were found at the crash site at Yangchi, 130 km from Tawang town and close to the border with China.
A source familiar with the development told the newspaper that the Barrackepore-based helicopter was loaded with kerosene jerrycanes meant as supplies for a forward post.
A court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of crash. The death of seven military personnel — five from the Indian Air Force and two from the Army — in the crash came ahead of IAF Day celebrations on Sunday.
The crew comprised a wing commander, a squadron leader, a wireless officer and two sergeants and two sepoys of the Indian Army, who were on a routine kerosene supply mission to a forward base in the snowy heights near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh.
The IAF and the Indian Army — which operates the largest number of military helicopters — are already reeling under a shortage of about 1,000 helicopters. About 150 MI 17 helicopters are in service and 48 more have been requisitioned. Operating in the high altitude zone of Tawang has always posed challenges to pilots, with unpredictable winds making it more difficult.
On Sunday, besides rapid changes in the wind pattern and a strong updraft, a parachute also malfunctioned, leading to the fifth IAF chopper crash in the past three-and-a-half years.
The jerrycans are mounted on skids each of a certain weight and packed with one or more parachutes. Once in a while, a parachute gets entangled with the tail rotor because of freak winds and unforeseen circumstances. On Sunday morning, as the jerrycanes were being air dropped, one of the parachutes did not open properly and got entangled in the chopper's tail rotor leading to a fire which spread fast.
"Possibly one of the crew members jumped out from the aircraft but did not survive the fall. The rest of the bodies were charred almost beyond recognition," the source added.