Flying Danger in NE

Within days of a crash in Arunachal Pradesh, another chopper went missing in Sikkim. The crash in Arunachal killed 17 persons and injured six others while all four Army personnel were killed in the Sikkim crash. Given our concern over air safety in the NE region, the Morung Express had put out a report a few days ago where our reporter had attempted to cross-check on some of the vital questions of air safety. Coincidently, the report came out just before the latest tragedy involving Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dhorjee Khandu, whose helicopter crashed killing the CM and others, traveling with him. The series of chopper crashes in the Northeast region including in Nagaland is raising safety concerns both with regard to air traffic control and also the air worthiness of our planes and helicopters. Known for its rough terrain and inclement weather conditions, flying in the Northeast region can be quite distressing. Recent incidents of air mishap one after the other calls for an appraisal of air transportation in the region. Each State government including in Nagaland will need to do a cross check on the vital questions of air safety. We should not wake up after an accident has taken place. Preparedness and all safety norms must be put in place.
Coming to the back to back tragedy involving Pawan Hans helicopter in Arunachal Pradesh, the poor safety record of this public sector undertaking is a big cause of concern. The Union government must not shy away from taking action against the air service provider. It is time to fix accountability. It is not the first time that a helicopter run by Pawan Hans has crashed. In fact one will have to question the very credibility of those who run and manage this public sector undertaking because too many accidents have taken place under its wings. Although pilot error cannot be ruled out, it is the ill maintained choppers which are often blamed for such mishaps. Recently when the Morung Express ran the story on this topic, one of the senior pilot and Managing Director of ‘King Roter and Air Charter Pvt. Ltd’(which operates its chopper service in Nagaland), Captain KNG Nair, suggested that safety of a chopper depended on the engine. At least the Nagaland government has stopped the services of Pawans Hans and hopefully the present chopper service under ‘King Roter and Air Charter Pvt. Ltd’, will leave no stone unturned to ensure safety of its service. The concerned Transport Department should also cross check and constantly monitor on the safety concerns.
As far as air traffic in the northeast east goes, it is questionable whether necessary technology upgradation has been done to ensure proper communication and smooth flight operation in the skies. We should note with concern an article that was published in a reputed national daily, wherein it was reported that flights between Kolkata and the Northeast are short on safety as the flight passes through stretches of air space between Bangladesh and India where communication methods are primitive and radar surveillance is nonexistent. Apparently, apart from Guwahati, no other airport in the Northeast has radar surveillance. As such voice communication with the ATC (Air Traffic Control) is the only life line available to pilots. If at all this is true, this is a serious breach of safety norms and the concerned authorities should take corrective steps. The State governments in the region should also take up all safety issues with the Civil Aviation Ministry. All in all there appears to be a total neglect of air safety norms in the NE region. This is a cause for concern and needs urgent attention.