No foul play, YSR chopper crash blamed on pilots (Lead)

January 20th, 2010 - 11:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Hyderabad, Jan 20 (IANS) A probe into the helicopter crash last year that killed Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has blamed the pilots for the disaster, virtually ruling out any foul play.
Stating the probable cause of the Sep 2, 2009, accident, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in its report submitted to the civil aviation ministry said the accident occurred due to loss of control, leading to uncontrolled descent in a hostile terrain.

The bodies of YSR, as the chief minister was popularly known, and four others, including the two pilots, were found the next day in the hills of Kurnool.

The chopper had taken off from the old airport at Begumpet in Hyderabad for Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh.

The crew, the investigation says, noticed a snag but they were searching for the check-list from the flight manual during the vital six minutes before the crash.

“This was one of the factors that contributed to the crash. This distracted their attention from the prevailing poor visibility weather conditions, leading into the loss of situational awareness,” the report said.

“The accident occurred due to loss of control resulting in uncontrolled descent in the terrain at a very high rate of descent due to entry into severe down draught,” the statement by civil aviation ministry said.

The investigation by four-member team headed by R.K. Tyagi, chairman and managing director of Pawan Hans Helicopters, noted that the crew flew in Instrument Flying condition though flight plan was cleared for Visual Flight Rules.

The government-owned Bell 430 helicopter (BT-APG), carrying YSR and four others, went missing minutes after it took off. The massive air search involving Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters and Sukhois failed to trace the chopper.

The IAF helicopters found the wreckage the next day on a hillock, 40 nautical miles from Kurnool town.

The charred bodies of YSR, his principal secretary K. Subramanyam, chief security officer A.S.C Wesley, pilot group captain S.K. Bhatia and co-pilot M.S. Reddy were recovered.

The DGCA committee took help of international agencies Transport Safety Board (TSB) Canada, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Bell Helicopters, Goodrich, Rolls Royce of US for Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) downloads, engine and Electronic Control Unit (ECU) analysis.

The report and its safety recommendations including on functioning of APACL and other regulatory issues are under consideration of the government.

The other members of the investigation committee were DGCA’s Flight Operations Inspector Captain Irshad Ahmed, Senior Air Safety Officer Sanjay Bramhane and Deputy Director of Air Safety Maneesh Kumar.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is conducting a separate a probe into the crash to ascertain if it was a case of sabotage.

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