Friday, September 4, 2009

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy Dies In Helicopter Crash

The Civil Aviation Ministry on Thursday night set up a four-member committee to probe the cause of Andhra Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's helicopter crash in which he was killed.

The committee has been asked to complete its inquiry and submit its report to the government within two months.

R K Tyagi, Chairman and Managing Director of Pawan Hans Helicopters, will head the committee, the Civil Aviation
Ministry said in a statement.

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The committee will also take the assistance of other experts from Indian Air Force wherever required, it said.

The Bell 430 helicopter belonging to Andhra Pradesh government, carrying Reddy and four others, crashed into a hillock and exploded on Wednesday while flying from Hyderabad to Chitoor. Reddy and all others were killed in the mishap.

Sources said the DGCA will now insist on carrying satellite phones and effective transponders on every helicopter carrying a VIP apart from the other equipments on the choppers.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has already begun a probe into the chopper crash.

The regulatory body has also been coming out with instructions on a regular basis for heli-operators to follow the laid down rules, procedures and guidelines. It has laid down stringent guidelines for helicopter operations in the

The DGCA had made it mandatory for non-scheduled plane and helicopter operators to possess valid airworthiness
certificates for their aircraft which should be inspected by licensed aeronautical engineers on a regular basis.

According to aviation sources, most of the helicopter accidents have occurred when the aircraft was being flown under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) instead of being guided by Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

Visual flying rules are generally not used at busy airports which have a controlled airspace and the air traffic is generally guided by IFR.

Also, the flight plan of VIP choppers should clearly indicate alternative airports for landing.

Lightning may have hit YSR chopper

HYDERABAD: Though the exact sequence of events leading to the crash of the helicopter carrying Rajasekhara Reddy is not yet fully clear, sources
Bell 430 helicopter
Death on the hills: The wreckage of the Bell 430 helicopter, which carried chief minister YSR Reddy, lies scattered in the forest. (Agency Photo)
aver that it was a lightning strike that led to the immobilisation of the flight.

Although the lightning did not down the helicopter, it led to the onboard systems including the altimeter going awry. A helicopter flies by looking at the land below but this was not possible because visibility was reduced to zero in the midst of the torrential rains.

In Pics: YSR Reddy (1949-2009)

With the altimeter having failed, the pilot had no clue where he was flying to. From here on it took probably a few minutes for the low-flying helicopter to stray 18 km from its flight path and hit a cliff in the Nallamala forest about 14 metres below the peak. The helicopter then exploded and broke down into pieces.

The five occupants of the fateful flight were burnt, their bodies charred beyond recognition and their limbs dismembered. In the end, the bodies were identified from their clothes. However, the body of P Subramanyam, the special secretary, was found intact. The crash was 10 km from Rudrakodur in Kurnool district, 40 nautical miles from Kurnool town.

It was not that the top brass of the state did not have a clue to what could have happened. But nobody wanted to believe the worst and say it in so many words.” The weather forecast had warned of heavy rain and formation of Cb clouds (that leads to lightning). The weather report had been sought and obtained by the chief minister's office (CMO). The pilots should have refused to take off. But the presence of the VVIP must have made them tongue-tied,” source said.

The grim details about the violent end of the occupants of the chopper was disclosed here officially on Thursday morning by finance minister and now chief minister K Rosaiah. This was much after home minister had informed the media about YSR's death —based on information from the Andhra Pradesh government. “An IAF helicopter spotted the wreckage of the CM's chopper around 8.30 am,” Rosaiah said. The search helicopter had gone there based on identification of the place that the crash could have taken place. This was based on an SMS message sent to the chief security officer's cellphone, which curiously enough showed a received message confirmation.

So hostile was the terrain that army commandos had to be dropped down (the helicopter could not land) to pick up the bodies. They were able to retrieve three bodies with great difficulty. The fourth body took a little more time and the last heavily charred body took one hour to be located. “By that time, the bodies had also decomposed very quickly due to the adverse weather conditions,” Rosaiah said.

The bodies were taken to Kurnool for post-mortem. Kurnool Medical College senior professor M Malakondiah, who supervised the post-mortem on the five bodies, said YSR's head was crushed beyond recognition. After the post-mortem in Kurnool, the bodies were flown to Hyderabad and handed over to the respective families.