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Dhruv set to fly after 6-month grounding

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, June 6 (UNI) After many a missed date, the country's indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter 'Dhruv' is once again set to fly the skies.

Grounded following the crash on November 25 last of a civilian variant -- ordered by a state government -- due to a defect in tail rotors, the versatile Dhruv could not participate in this year's Republic Day fly-past -- prompting fears that its absence could raise doubts among prospective buyers, including Chile and some South-east Asian countries.

Finally, the unique multi-role state-of-art helicopter -- designed and developed by the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited -- has received the green signal to fly.

The Indian Air Force's safety Chief Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia told mediapersons here today that three Dhruv machines had yesterday been cleared for flying by the relevant certification agencies after rigorous tests.

Air Marshal Ahluwalia, Director General (Inspections&Safety) at the Air Headquarters here, confidently described Dhruv as ''a sound machine'' but admitted to ''teething problems in certain components'' which needed strengthening.

He said the tail rotor and the tail gearbox had been further strengthened and subsequently the helicopter had passed rigorous scrutiny with flying colours.

The 46-strong Dhruv fleet in the Armed Forces was grounded after Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) identified a fault in the tail rotor blades. Blades of a particular batch had some snags but these were not related to design deficiencies. Investigations following the November 2005 accident led HAL to issue a technical advisory to all operators of the medium-twin helicopter.

The grounding of the Dhruv fleet came at an inopportune time for the country's defence establishment. HAL had an order book of about 300 Dhruv helicopters from the three defence services and the Coast Guard and was scouting for export orders with its teams seeking to market the helicopter abroad, particularly in Russia and Chile.


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