New Delhi [India], December 8 (ANI): The Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17V5 helicopter, carrying Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and 13 others, which crashed in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, is a very robust aircraft and is used for VIP movement in nearly 60 countries across the world, according to defence expert Retired Major General PK Sehgal.
Sehgal said that the twin-engine Russia-made aircraft is "battle-proven", and the Army has been using different variants of it for the last 25 to 30 years.
Speaking to ANI, Sehgal expressed grief over CDS Rawat's demise in the accident and said, "The helicopter he was travelling in is a very safe helicopter. It is being used in 60 countries across the world, and is battle-proven battle-tested."
"From the last 25-30 years, different variants of this chopper has been used. This was the latest version, equipped with all kinds of technology, and is used for VIP movement," he added.
The defence expert also said that only highly qualified pilots fly these aircraft.
Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan was the pilot of the chopper carrying Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and 13 others, which crashed earlier today in a forested area in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris district.
Chauhan was the Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit, sources informed.
"The pilots who fly these aircraft are cleared by the board for VIP movement. Their theoretical knowledge is up to the point and as for their flying capabilities, they are trained to fly in bad weather," Sehgal said.
Recalling his experience of flying in the same area as that of the accident, in a similar aircraft in 1971, Sehgal said, "There is a sudden change in weather in the Western Ghats; suddenly the visibility reduces to less than 5 meters, so much so that you cannot even see a plane next to yours, neither can you see trees or mountains there."
"The terrain there does not allow the pilot to make an emergency landing; it is only by luck that one can find a place to land here," he added.
CDS General Rawat died in the military helicopter that crashed in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said today.
"With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident," tweeted IAF.Gen Rawat, India's first CDS was on a visit to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course when his chopper crashed near Coonor in the Nilgiris district."
Gen Rawat was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today," the IAF added.
The CDS had taken off from Sulur Airbase for Wellington and was accompanied by his wife Madhulika Rawat, his DA Brigadier LS Lidder, SO Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, among other defence officials.
"Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN," the Indian Air Force said in a tweet. (ANI)