The Indian Army’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv crash-landed in the Kashmir valley on Thursday, killing a technician and injuring two pilots.
NEW DELHI: The Indian Army’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv crash-landed in the Kashmir valley on Thursday, killing a technician and injuring two pilots. This was the third incident in the past two months. Such accidents, analysts believe, can tarnish the image of the machine that can propel India as a helicopter manufacturer.
The Northern Command of the Indian Army said the Thursday accident took place at about 11.15 am.
“An Army Aviation ALH Dhruv helicopter on an operational mission made a precautionary landing on the banks of the Marua river in the J&K’s Kishtwar region.”
“As per inputs, the pilots had reported a technical fault to the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and proceeded for a precautionary landing. Due to the undulating ground, undergrowth and unprepared landing area, the helicopter apparently made a hard landing,” the Army said.
“Immediate rescue operations were launched,” the Army said in a statement. Two pilots and a technician were on board. A court of inquiry has been ordered. Such a high number of incidents is not acceptable, said a defence source.
“This is unfortunate as the machine has the potential to take India’s helicopter manufacturing capability to the international stage,” he said. “Accountability needs to be fixed if we have to do well,” the defence source said. The entire fleet of ALH Dhruv with the armed forces including those with the Coast Guard was grounded after the March 8 Navy chopper accident off the coast of Mumbai.
Subsequently, the Army had allowed a select number of helicopters, including the one that met with the accident, to fly after clearing all the checks and procedures. These procedures were specified by the manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
As far as the Indian Navy is concerned, ALH flying operations have not started. “However, the manufacturer should not be blamed solely, said a HAL source. These sources admitted that there were problems. “The users, in some cases, carried out changes which they should not have,” the HAL source said. As per sources, ALH Dhruv has clocked 3.9 lakhs of cumulative flying hours and the machine has passed tests in rugged terrains, including in Ladakh.
There are around 300 ALH Dhruv helicopters, of which 145 are with the Indian Army. The Army has ordered an additional 25 ALH Mk III. More than 70 are with the IAF, 18 with the Navy and 20 with the Coast Guard. The choppers which have crashed this year include ones from the Navy, Coast Guard and the Army.
Jolt to local manufacturing
In today’s accident, the Army said the pilots had reported a technical fault to the ATC and proceeded for a precautionary landing.
- Due to uneven ground, undergrowth and an unprepared landing area, the helicopter apparently made a hard landing
- A technician on board the chopper died and two pilots were injured
- The entire fleet of ALH Dhruv with the armed forces was grounded after the March 8 Navy chopper accident off the coast of Mumbai.
- Thursday’s accident is 3rd in 2 months and comes as a jolt to India’s chopper-manufacturing capability
Other ALH incidents
March 8: During a routine sortie off Mumbai, the Navy’s ALH crashed close to the coast. Three personnel had to make an emergency landing and were rescued by a naval patrol aircraft.
Reason: As per the Indian Navy, the ALH experienced a sudden loss of power and rapid loss of height
March 26: ALH Dhruv Mk 3 belonging to the Indian Coast Guard made a forced landing at Kochi in Kerala, during a training sortie. Three personnel were onboard in which one got minor injuries. The reason for the accident is yet to be established