''Pilot error'' behind Hawk advanced jet trainer accident

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New Delhi, May 1 (UNI) Preliminary investigations into the crash of a British Hawk trainer at Bidar Air Force Station in Karnataka on Tuesday suggested ''pilot error'' as the main cause of the mishap that completely destroyed the aircraft, sources said today.

''There was nothing with the AJT (advanced jet trainer). Initial inquiry suggests that the mishap occurred due to pilot error,'' the sources said.

The Hawk AJT crashed immediately after taking off on a routine mission at the Bidar Air Force Station at 1240 hrs on Tuesday.

The sources said while one of the pilots ejected safely, his co-pilot also escaped unhurt since the aircraft was flying barely few feet above the ground.

However, they said the AJT, worth around Rs 85 crore, was damaged beyond repair.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesman said no person was wounded or killed as a result of the accident. There was no damage to civil or other property, he added.

The IAF had already ordered a court of inquiry to investigate the reasons for the accident, the spokesman said.

This was the first accident involving the Hawk fighters, which were inducted into the IAF on February 23 this year to impart advanced jet training to pilots to reduce air crashes.

The decision to acquire Hawk trainers was taken in the wake of series of air crashes involving MiG-21 fighters.

The IAF is in the process of acquiring 66 Hawk AJTs from the UK following a Rs 8,000 crore deal signed with India in March 2004.

So far, ten of these fighters, manufactured by BAE systems, have been inducted into the IAF. The crashed aircraft was part of that delivery.

The IAF is expected to acquire 14 more Hawk fighters by September this year to start advanced training courses for its pilots.

The sources said the entire acquired Hawk fleet has been grounded till reasons behind the crash would be ascertained.

Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament yesterday that a total of 61 IAF aircraft crashed during the past five years with 30 pilots losing their lives.

The main reasons behind the crashes were human error and technical defects, he added.

UNI AG RL KN1806

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