Sunday, 6 September 2009

Aviation safety track record in Andhra Pradesh



By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 5: Andhra Pradesh has better aviation safety track record. It scores 7 out of 10 marks for its safe skies and airports. Of the 455 "safety occurrences"
reported in India since 1942, only eight occurred in Andhra Pradesh. In terms of fatal accidents involving aircraft, the State has recorded only one, 27
years ago, as against 136 in the country.

Four passengers were killed in an air crash involving Indian Airlines on
March 15, 1973. Since then there have been no fatal accidents involving
commercial airlines. This is in contrast to 2802 air deaths in the country in
the last 67 years.

However, there have been several "miraculous escapes" in Andhra Pradesh
and in five cases, the aircraft received so much ground impact that they had
to be declared "beyond repair" and discarded.

But the safety record of helicopters and trainer aircraft is not as
standard or
foolproof as that of the commercial aircraft in the State. In the last seven
years there have been fatal air crashes involving four helicopters, killing 14
people. The victims included Lok Sabha former speaker GMC Balayogi
(March 3, 2003) and chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy (September 3,
2009). The State in the recent past recorded half a dozen air fatalities
involving trainer aircraft/helicopter, both civil and defence.

Aviation experts attribute helicopter fatal accidents to its structural
limitations and pilot's limited ability, unlike that of his counterparts in
aircraft. The pilot of a helicopter navigates based on the visibility of the
ground and the electronic gadgets are likely to be affected in case of
lightning
or weather disturbances.

"A helicopter has both advantages and disadvantages. Unlike an aircraft, a
helicopter can be used quite easily to rescue people trapped in areas where an
aeroplane cannot fly or land. It is also handy for airlifting during
floods and
other natural calamities. A helicopter can take off and land
vertically and has
the capability to hover in the air. But the major disadvantage of a helicopter
is that it does not have a powerful engine. Moreover, a helicopter has to
produce both lift and thrust and this puts the engine to work more and thus
faster fuel consumption," says a senior pilot in National Remote Sensing
Centre of ISRO.

According to Capt SN Reddy, chief executive officer of AP Aviation
Academy, "a pilot should be on toes whenever he is flying. It is not advisable
to depend completely on previous experiences since the pilot faces new
challenges every time he or she takes off".

Experts also cite lack of strict discipline among pilots as the major
reason for
the frequent crash of helicopters. During 2008-2009 alone 10 helicopters
crashed in different parts of the country. They allege that several
pilots don't
follow safety norms frequently updated by Directorate General of Civil
Aviation. Many of them ignore even crucial weather bulletins of
meteorological department.

Says Vinod Singel, director of Aerosource (India) private limited, "when we
compare the accident rate involving helicopters in India with that of the USA,
our country rates poor in performance. Human error is the main reason for
accidents and not maintenance of the helicopters.

Helicopter crash is also often blamed on lack of proper coordination among
the meteorological department, the air traffic control and the pilots.
Unlike in
aircraft, a pilot in a helicopter develops a tendency to operate under Visual
Flight Rules rather than Instrument Flight Rules. IFR allows pilots to fly by
just relying on the instrument panels even if they cannot see anything outside
the cockpit windows. The VFR, on the other hand, is used by pilots to fly by
relying on what all they can see from the cockpit.

Referring to US-made Bell 430 helicopter (the one used by Dr Rajasekhar
Reddy), Mohan Guruswamy, former advisor to Union Finance Ministry,
argues that the chopper had been put on the watch-list by the DGCA. He
regrets that these helicopters are in operation with scant regard to DGCA
concerns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good analysis.

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