India: Pilot error was the likely cause for the chopper crash that led to Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat’s death last month, sources said Wednesday afternoon.
Sources said the Mi-17V5 helicopter carrying Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika, and 12 other armed forces personnel – from the Sulur Air Force base in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore to the Defence Staff Services Colleges in Wellington – crashed after a CFIT, or Controlled Flight Into Terrain, occurrence.
CFIT occurs when an airworthy aircraft, while under the complete control of the pilot, is inadvertently flown into terrain, water, or an obstacle.
According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), the term refers to accidents in which in-flight collisions with terrain, water, or another obstacle occur without indication of loss of control.
The United States’ Federal Aviation Administration says CFIT is ” … an unintentional collision with terrain (ground, mountain, body of water, or an obstacle) while an aircraft is under positive control.”
The critical distinction in such incidents is the fact the aircraft is under control of the flight crew.
Sources said the crash took place in cloudy weather and stressed that the aircraft – described by several ex-Army officers to NDTV as “very safe” – was not malfunctioning at the time of the crash.
A tri-services inquiry – led by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, the country’s top helicopter pilot – had been ordered to investigate the crash in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri Hills on December 8.