Mumbai (The Hindu): Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis survived yet another helicopter mishap at Alibaug on Friday raising questions on the quality and safety of choppers used for VVIP operations.
Sources confirmed to The Hindu it was a close shave for the chief minister as the chopper suddenly took off unexpectedly even as its rotors were moving in full swing, nearly brushing Mr. Fadnavis and his Personal Assistant walking towards it.
Senior officials accompanying Mr. Fadnavis confirmed the incident occurred when the chopper was in a “surface taxied position” when the skids aligned to the wheels were suddenly removed by the ground staff resulting in a “forward cyclic movement”.
This caught the two pilots off guard, who were forced to gain airspeed and lift the chopper off the ground, senior officials accompanying chief minister told The Hindu. Officials said some action is likely to be initiated against the pilot and private agency responsible for running the fleet.
“We were almost walking in the direction of the chopper when it suddenly took because the ground staff removed the skids aligned in the direction of the take off too soon. It was a close shave for the chief minister. This (air mishap) is not expected to happen twice in such a short duration. We will take some action,” said an official accompanying the chief minister on Friday. The chief minister’s office denied any damage caused during the incident but did not refute the rumours of accident completely.
Senior officials stationed at Alibaug narrated their version of the incident: “The rotors of the chopper were already turning by the time the Honorable CM reached it. He was getting inside when the chopper lifted off the ground prematurely. He immediately moved away and reentered the chopper after it was stabilised,” said Superintendent of Police Anil Paraskar, Raigad.
Following the incident, the helicopter took off with Mr. Fadnavis and others dropping them at the Raj Bhavan helipad before returning to Juhu.
Following media reports, the civil aviation department of the State government sought a report from the pilots.
In May, Mr. Fadnavis had another scare when a chopper carrying him crash landed in Latur with him and the staff still on board.
The State government had recently hired two private aviation firms after State’s own fleet was left unused for over four years. The State government had then clarified it did not have resources to maintain the aircraft or could find suit able pilots for its own fleet.
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