Dhruv crashes in Safapora, 2 pilots dead

Fayaz Bukhari

Remains of Dhruv copter that crashed in Safapora forests on Wednesday.
Remains of Dhruv copter that crashed in Safapora forests on Wednesday.

SRINAGAR, Feb 11: An army aviation pilot and a co-pilot were killed in an air crash in the forests of Safapora in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district this evening, minutes after the copter took off from its Mansbal Dhruv army aviation base.
Deputy Inspector General of Police North Kashmir, Gareeb Dass, told Excelsior that an Army helicopter crashed this evening  at Takia Chewa in Safapora area of Bandipora district. He said that both pilot and co-pilot are dead and their charred  bodies have been recovered.
Dass said that a police party led by Deputy Superintendent of Police, Bashir Ahmad, and an army party led by Commanding  Officer 13 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) immediately rushed to the crash site and the two charred bodies of the pilots were  recovered.
Sources said that at around 7.20 p.m. the helicopter struck the mountains leading to fire. However, they said that actual cause of the crash will be found by the inquiry. Police is investigating the matter.
The pilot has been identified as Lt Colonel Gulathi and co-pilot as Major Tahir Khan. The helicopter belonging to 202 Squadron had taken off from a Dhru army aviation base at Mansbal and was on training sortie.
A Srinagar based army spokesman said that Army Aviation Helicopter crashed at Safapora Heights while it was on a night flying training sortie. “The helicopter had taken off at about 7 pm from Manasbal base and the contact was lost after 40 minutes of flying. Search and rescue mission revealed that two officers, both pilots, suffered  fatal casualties in the accident”, he said. Dhruv is a utility helicopter developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The development of the  Dhruv was first announced in November 1984, and it was subsequently designed with assistance from MBB in Germany.
The Dhruv entered service in 2002. It is designed to meet the requirement of both military and civil operators, with  military variants of the helicopter being developed for the Indian Armed Forces, while a variant for civilian/commercial use has also been developed.
In 2005, following a crash landing of a Dhruv, the entire fleet was grounded when it was discovered to have been caused by excessive vibration of the tail rotor. Following a redesign which incorporated new materials in addition to changes in design methodology, the Dhruv undertook recertification and returned to service shortly after March 2006. It is designed for flying in high altitudes.