One of the most intense searches in Indian aviation history came to a sad end this morning.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, his special secretary P Subramaniam, chief security officer A S C Wesley, pilots Group Capt S K Bhatia and Capt M S Reddy were found dead in the mangled and charred remains of his Bell 430 helicopter which crashed on top of the Rudrakonda hill in the Nallamalla forest range near Atmakur, about 40 nm (70 km) east of the town of Kurnool.
View Larger Map
Since 09:30 yesterday morning when contact with the chopper was lost, a massive search and rescue operation was implemented.
The search involved two Chetak helicopters from Air Force Station Hakimpet near Hyderabad, an Mi-8 and three Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) of the Sarang team from Air Force Station Yelahanka which is adjacent to the Bengaluru International Airport.
The Indian Space Research Organisation was roped in for real time satellite imagery along with aircraft with special sensors, and three Sukhoi SU-30MKI’s from Air Force Station Bareily in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh were deployed for searches using their synthetic aperture radars. Airborne refuelling was provided by the IL-76 tankers.
All this high technology could not locate the helicopter.
The search was narrowed down from hundreds of square kilometres to just four square kilometres by using cellular tower triangulation which was triggered by the receipt of a text SMS sent to one of the cell phones on the helicopter.
The Chief Minister was much loved figure and there is sorrow across the nation. A parliamentary probe has already been announced. Questions are bound to be raised as to why the pilot deviated away from the flight plan and flew east instead of south.
There was bad weather between Kurnool and Chitoor yesterday. Atmakaru is a hilly area couple this with poor visibility and the low altitude of the chopper, may have been the fatal mistake. Questions are being raised on whether the flight should have been allowed given the bad weather.
We should wait for the official DGCA report.
The chopper was found completely mangled. A video of the crash site is here.