Two pilots killed as plane crashes in Punjab, probe ordered (Second Lead)

October 29th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Ludhiana, Oct 29 (IANS) Two experienced pilots were killed Wednesday when a six-seater aircraft of the Punjab government crashed while landing at the Sahnewal airport near here. A probe has been ordered, officials said.The King Air C-90 aircraft took off from Chandigarh, 110 km away, on a trial flight after repairs. It crashed within minutes at Jugiana village near the airport, 20 km from here, a police official said.

Those killed were identified as pilot Dalip Kataria and co-pilot Manjit Singh, a Punjab government spokesman said here.

A probe has been ordered by the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA).

Harcharan Bains, media adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, said that the DGCA has constituted a two-member team to investigate the accident.

The police and district officials here had a tough time extricating the bodies of the pilots. The small plane crashed on the premises of Thapar Agro factory. The factory complex was abandoned.

The Punjab government civil aviation officials told IANS that the aircraft was not being used for some time and was cleared for flying by the DGCA only last week after major repairs.

“It was on a trial flight from Chandigarh to Sahnewal after repairs,” said Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner Sumer Singh.

Airport sources at Chandigarh said that the aircraft was not fit for flying but the pilots were told to do a trial flight to check its flying capabilities.

The plane was apparently being made ready for flying duties for Badal.

Badal, who is presently attending a Sikh religious event in Nanded in Maharashtra, announced a grant of Rs.1 million each to families of the pilots killed in the crash. He also directed that both pilots be given a state funeral.

Bains said the plane was on a mandatory technical check-up flight prior to a VIP trip when it seemed to stall, began losing height and crashed.

“The ill-fated plane had undergone a scheduled technical propeller service in Mumbai only yesterday (Tuesday). It had flown in to Chandigarh last evening. The plane had also cleared the mandatory airworthiness certification from the DGCA,” Bains said.

“Both pilots, who were conducting the check-up flight, were among the most experienced pilots in the country, having logged 5,000 and 3,000 hours respectively. They had earlier handled large commercial airliners, including 747s, before being inducted by the Punjab government,” Bains added.

Badal was recently facing flying troubles after the state government’s helicopter chartered from Pawan Hans developed snags on several occasions. That forced Badal to travel by road.

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