Praful Patel says Andhra CM's copter was airworthy, to order inquiry

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New Delhi, Sep.3 (ANI): Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel on Thursday rejected suggestions that the crashed helicopter carrying former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and four others was not airworthy.

He told a private television channel that the information that the copter was not airworthy was incorrect.

He said that he would be ordering an inquiry into the tragic accident, and added that notwithstanding the inclement weather, it was the pilot's duty to determine a flight could be taken or not.

Patel's remarks came a day after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the civil aviation regulator, which also provides licenses to aircraft and their operators, said the required licenses of the chopper were renewed on a regular basis.

When contacted, officials of the Bell company, who requested anonymity, also maintained that it was mandatory for any aircraft to renew its licenses every year on the basis of compliance of technical grounds. Besides this, flight engineers have to sign documents on a daily basis after carrying out required maintenance, they said.

However, this particular aircraft was experiencing technical trouble on a regular basis and, therefore, was currently being used to train pilots, sources in the Chief Minister's Office said in Hyderabad.

A few months ago, the helicopter had suffered a fault mid-air when it was carrying Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama from Hyderabad to Gulbarga, they said, but nothing untoward happened.

The sources said often it was "wrong handling and non-compliance" of set procedures that led to the problems and noted that the Bell-430 seven-seater had recently got a crack on its windshield.

Subsequently, the crack was replaced during the routine maintenance of the Bell-430, the sources, on conditions of anonymity, said.

There were a couple of occasions when wrong coordinates were fed into the helicopter's system because of which the aircraft, carrying the VIP, had to hover in air in search of the helipad for making a safe landing, they said.

The Bell-430 is equipped with at least two radio systems, weather radar and emergency locator transmitter, among other sophisticated equipment, and is certified for day and night operations. (ANI)

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