General Bipin Rawat (Photo: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images).
PILOTING error caused the crash of the helicopter that killed India’s first chief of defence staff general Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other personnel in a hilly region in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in December, preliminary findings of the inquiry team probing the tragedy have said.
“The accident was a result of entry into clouds due to an unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley. This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in a Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT),” the investigating team found after analysing the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder besides questioning available witnesses to determine the most probable cause of the crash of the Mi-17 V5 helicopter of the Indian Air Force.
According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), the term is used to refer to accidents in which in-flight collisions with terrain, water or other obstacles take place without indication of any loss of control.
According to the United States Federal Aviation Administration, CFIT is “…an unintentional collision with terrain (ground, mountain, body of water, or an obstacle) while an aircraft is under positive control”.
The ill-fated helicopter carrying general Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 other personnel took off from Sulur air force base in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore to reach the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington on December 8 but crashed during the flight.
Group captain Varun Singh survived the crash but succumbed to his severe burn injuries a week later.