New Delhi/Jaipur: Speculation is rife that the pilots may have engaged in low-level flying in the “tactical” exercise before the crash. The possibility of human error or any sudden technical snag that could have sparked a fire will be examined by the court of inquiry ordered by the IAF.
Karauli district collector B.L. Jatawat, quoting villagers at the crash site, said the plane probably hit some rocky area and caught fire on the Chambal river’s banks. He said the bodies were recovered by an IAF rescue team.
Defence minister A.K. Antony is believed to have conveyed his anguish, unhappiness and deep concern at a meeting with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Friday, asking how a new, state-of-the-art transport aircraft could crash during a routine sortie. In a statement Friday evening, the IAF chief expressed sadness over the crash, but said the best pilots had been chosen to fly it.
Kanakpura, where the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft crashed, is a swamp left of a partially dried-up river infested with crocodiles that nestle there. IAF officers refused to comment on reports that crocodiles were trying to eat the remains of the crash victims that were lying around after the crash. The villagers rushed to the spot on hearing the deafening sound of the crash in their vicinity and spotted the debris of the huge plane.
The IAF will now analyse the ill-fated aircraft’s flight data recorder (popularly known as the black box), which has been recovered from the crash site. The cockpit voice recorder will also be analysed. The squadron comprising the Super Hercules aircraft is named the “Veiled Vipers”.
The officers who died in the crash were Wing Commander Prashant Joshi (pilot), Wing Commander Raji Nair (co-pilot), Squadron Leader Kaushik Mishra (additional pilot on board), and Squadron Leader Ashish Yadav (navigator). The fifth IAF man on board who died in the crash was Warrant Officer K.P. Singh. Sources said both pilots were “very experienced”.
The news of the crash was immediately reported to the IAF by the other C-130J aircraft on the tactical mission, after which the IAF deployed helicopters on a search and rescue mission to reach the crash site. An accident investigation team was also despatched to the site. Sources said the ill-fated aircraft has been severely damaged.
The Super Hercules were the “first US-manufactured aircraft to fly in IAF colours” in recent times. The IAF had acquired six of these aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, after a $1 billion deal inked in 2008, and the induction of these aircraft had begun in February 2011. After Friday’s crash, the IAF is left with five such aircraft now. None of the six aircraft were more than three years old. India recently ordered six more of these aircraft in another $1 billion deal. Each of these aircraft costs about Rs 1,000 crores. The aircraft are based at the Hindan airbase in western Uttar Pradesh, Near Delhi.
Lockheed Martin has said it is ready to extend all help to the IAF in its inquiry. India may also seek information from the United States and Lockheed Martin whether any US government report had detected the presence of faulty Chinese parts in the US-manufactured aircraft, including those sold to India....