A total of at least five military personnel were killed when an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter crashed near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh this morning.
The Mi-17 V5 chopper was on an “air maintenance mission” at an altitude of 17,000 feet when it crashed around 6 am, according to the Air Force. The helicopter was carrying supplies to a forward post of the Indian Army in the mountainous region.
Another report said that the bodies of seven, including the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and two army officers, have been found at the crash site at Yangchi, 130 km from Tawang town and close to the border with China.
A Court of Inquiry has been ordered to establish what caused the crash. Sources say senior pilots were flying the chopper – one was a wing commander and the other, a squadron leader.
The Russian-made Mi-17 V5 chopper is the backbone of the Air Force.
Over 150 such helicopters are in service and 48 more have been requisitioned. The Mi-17 can carry a substantial payload to higher altitudes and has a very powerful engine.
The tragedy took place a day ahead of Air Force Day celebrations.
At a press conference yesterday to mark the occasion, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had spoken about a string of air crashes in recent years.
“Our losses in the peacetime are a cause of concern. We are making concerted efforts to minimise accidents and preserve our assets,” the Air Chief said.