New Delhi, June 25: The courageous rescue effort of IAF became a tragedy today in Uttarakhand with a MI-17 V5 helicopter on a rescue operation crashing in the hills around Gaurikund.
Nineteen people have died of whom five are crew members and three civilians. The weather had turned extreme as the evening rolled by, making aircraft sorties very difficult.
IAF had in fact had ordered in 2008, more of these medium-lift choppers, from Russia after a spate of natural disasters following the tsunami in 2004 and heavy snowfall related deaths in Kashmir in 2005.
The Mi-17 V 5 chopper is a workhorse. It is medium-lift chopper, with over five tonne load carrying capability, used to ferry troops and VIPs.
The Mi-17 V5 is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics and on board navigation systems like on-board weather radar and state-of-the-art autopilot. Integrated into this latest avionics is advanced night-vision equipment and a glass cockpit.
With a takeoff weight of 13,000 kg, the Mi-17V-5 can carry either 36 armed soldiers internally or 4,500 kg of cargo on a sling.
India has customized Mi-17 V5s with brand-new KNEI-8 navigation, information-display and cueing systems. It features four multifunction displays instead of the dial instruments found on previous Mi-17 models. The twin-engined aircraft have strengthened gearboxes to enable high-altitude operations.
It falls in armed helicopter category, with substantial and effective firepower. It has latest and more powerful engines that enhance its payload carrying capability at higher altitudes.
In 2008, India had signed a deal with Russia to supply 80 Mi-17s to augment its existing fleet of around 150 Mi-8 and Mi-17 medium-lift choppers, which have over five tonne load carrying capability and are also used to ferry troops and VIPs.
India has Mi-17 V 5 copters in Indian Air Force, Ministry of Home Affairs and Central paramilitary forces.
Meanwhile, air force officials said this evening that eight bodies have been recovered from the crash site by the Garud Commandos of the IAF. They said the chopper had taken off at 12.30 pm from Kedarnath area and crashed within five to seven minutes.
There were 19 people onboard including NDRF, ITBP and IAF personnel when the sophisticated IAF helicopter crashed in bad weather near Gaurikund in Uttarakhand during rescue operations.
The ill-fated Mi-17 chopper had made two sorties to the Kedarnath area since this morning and was on its third sortie when it crashed. The crash occurred in "difficult" weather conditions created by rains and fog.
The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore Air Force Station in West Bengal.