An Indian Air Force (IAF) MI-17 helicopter crashed today in Arunachal Pradesh just a minute after it took off at 12.04 pm. The crash took place at Tepsha village in the Bomdir area, about 6km from Tawang. All the eleven air force personnel and an army lieutenant colonel on board died. The helicopter was en route to Guwahati. All 17 bodies have been found.
The 17 dead include Flight Lieutenants Akash Yadav and Nishant Rai, one of whom was the pilot and the other the co-pilot, and Lt Col M.S. Nene. In June last year as well an A-32 plane went down near Mechuka, also in Arunachal, killing 13 personnel.
After an dip in the crash rate around 2003-2006, military aircraft and helicopters have once again begun to go down at an alarming rate. Over last three years the armed forces have recorded more than 60 crashes and lost 45 military personnel.
The helicopter was said to be in good condition and the weather was clear. IAF sources said that the chopper could have encountered any obstruction.
But even in “fair” weather in the Northeast, air force helicopters often have turbulent sorties and have to fly at the limits of their capabilities.
The air force has ordered a court of inquiry to determine the cause of today’s crash.
Eyewitnesses said the chopper appeared to have lost control and went into a free fall before hitting the ground and bursting into flames.
Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said: “The mishap may have occurred due to poor visibility… but it is too early to say exactly how it happened.”