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Arunachal Helicopter Deaths: May Day Call To ATC To Become Focus Of Court Of Inquiry

Around 10:43 am on Friday, a weapon system integrated version of an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the Indian Army crashed at Migging village in the Upper Siang district of the border state. Search and rescue teams recovered four bodies by Friday night.

Smoke billows after an light helicopter of the Indian Army crashed at Migging, Upper Siang district
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Three weeks after a pilot lost his life in a chopper crash in the difficult terrain of Arunachal Pradesh, the easternmost mountainous state of India, five more people have lost their lives in another crash of an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) near Migging village in Upper Siang District. The Advance Light Helicopter (Weapon Systems Integrated) aircraft was inducted into service in June 2015. This is the 12th helicopter crash reported in Arunachal Pradesh since 2009 where 90 people have lost lives. 

Around 10:43 am on Friday, a weapon system integrated version of an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) of the Indian Army crashed at Migging village in the Upper Siang district of the border state. Search and rescue teams recovered four bodies by Friday night. 

In a recent statement, the Indian Army has said that prior to the crash, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) had received a MAYDAY call suggesting a technical or mechanical failure of the chopper. “This will form the focus of the Court of Inquiry, which has been immediately constituted to investigate the causes of the accident,” it said. Reports claim that the weather was good for flying operations. The pilots had more than 600 combined flying hours on ALH-WSI  and over 1800 service flying hours between them. 

Speaking about the Friday accident, officials said there were five people on board the twin-engine indigenously-developed helicopter belonging to the Army Aviation wing at the time of the accident.

Sources said two pilots: Major Vikas Bhambu, QFI, and Major Mustafa along with three technicians were onboard the HAL Rudra that took off from Likabali town and crashed at a location not connected by any road, about 35 km from the border with China. “A military chopper crashed near Singing village, 25 km away from the Tuting headquarters in the Upper Siang district today. The site of the accident was not connected by road, and a rescue team was sent. Further details awaited,” the Defence PRO was quoted as saying.

Residents and the police joined the Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the treacherous high-altitude region to launch a massive search and rescue operation.

"This terrain is very very inhospitable, very challenging. The weather changes very very rapidly," Air Commodore BS Siwach (retd.), aviation expert, on the Arunachal Pradesh chopper crash. Upper Siang SP Jummar Basar said the crash site is a mountainous region, and it would take time for the search and rescue teams to reach the spot. Union minister Kiren Rijiju expressed his condolences in a tweet.

This is the second incident of an Army helicopter accident in Arunachal this month. On October 5, an Indian Army pilot lost his life when a Cheetah helicopter crashed near the Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh. Among the previous casualties over the years is former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, who was killed in a single-engine, four-seater Eurocopter B8 provided by Pawan Hans.

Arunachal CM Pema Khandu too expressed shock at the incident: "Shocked to hear about the news of @adgpi Advanced Light Combat Helicopter crash near Tuting area in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The State Government has rushed the rescue team to the accident site and providing all assistance."

“Names of personnel will be released after notification to the next of kin." stated the Indian Army.

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