New Delhi: Despite losing two Chief Ministers in separate chopper crashes in a short span of two years, the Union Government is yet to come out of its slumber. Poor administrative system of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and murky policies for 263 helicopters operating in the country are a clear indication of the lackadaisical approach of the Government in this connection.

In 2009, Andhra Pradesh CM, YSR Reddy was killed in a helicopter crash. In a similar mishap on April 30, 2011, the country suffered a major loss as Arunachal Pradesh (AP) CM Dorjee Khandu died.

Ironically, even though DGCA has constituted a separate cell to monitor the safety aspects and coordination of choppers, it sans the responsibility for Air Traffic Control (ATC). 

Despite two major mishaps in the past two years, Civil Aviation Ministry is yet to draft separate rules and regulations for the operation of helicopters in the country. To date, choppers are following the rules and regulations originally meant for aeroplanes.

The investigation reports of the chopper crash in which Reddy was killed, suggested the formation of separate rules and regulations for the operation of helicopters. 

However, most of the recommendations made by the investigating team were left in abeyance by the ministry. The issue has re-emerged on the surface after the death of Khandu.

There has been a constant increase in the number of helicopters in the country. Presently, the country has 263 choppers which are registered and operate on a daily basis. Recently, Parliamentary Standing Committee had expressed its concern over the government’s negligence on the issue.

According to sources, the cell constituted by DGCA for the operation of helicopters includes technical experts from different fields and a representative from Rotary Wing Society of India, but it does not have a place for a delegate of Airport Authority of India to look after the functions of ATC. Interestingly, ATC has the responsibility to keep a tab on the chopper while it is flying.

In addition to the helicopters, there are around 120 aircrafts which are not eligible to fly in the mountain regions. Most of the choppers and aircrafts operating in the hilly regions are not equipped with Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) of 406 MHz.

DGCA had set the deadline of March 30, 2010 for the fitting of ELTs in all such aircrafts and helicopters. Although many aerorplanes and helicopters are still not equipped with ELTs, they have not been stopped from operating in the mountain regions.

Pawan Hans'  services suspended in North-East

In the wake of the death of Arunachal Pradesh CM and four others in a chopper crash, Pawan Hans Commercial helicopters services have been suspended in North-East.

Sources at Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited claimed that as DGCA has decided to review the chopper operation in the North-East region, the flights of Asia’s biggest helicopter company have not been operating since Sunday.

A major point to be investigated by DGCA is the failure of the advanced ELT to transmit signals in the event of mishap. In case of any mishap, the ELT signals can be picked by ISRO satellites as the equipment is activated automatically after a heavy impact.