Arunachal saw India’s highest chopper crashes

Debris of IAF Mi-17 chopper in Anjaw district on 18.11.21

  • Why this obnoxious record ?

By Pradeep Kumar

ITANAGAR, Mar 18: Two pilots on board Army’s Cheetah helicopter which took off from Sange village for Missmari crashed near Mandala in West Kameng district in Arunachal Pradesh on 16.03.23 killing both pilots Lt Colonel VVB Reddy and his co-pilot Major Jayanth A, according to army sources.

This added a black chapter to this Himalayan state’s obnoxious distinction of having highest helicopter crashes of India, which is mindboggling but true.  This is the third Army chopper crash in five months and 13th air disaster in 15 years in the mountainous frontier state to claim 93 lives of military personnel and civilians, including former state chief minister Dorjee Khandu. Between March 2017 & December 2021, 31 people lost their lives in accidents involving 15 military helicopters that included four each ALHs and Cheetahs, three Mi-17V5, two ALH (WSI), one each Mi-17 and Chetak, according to official details.


On 21.10.22: Army’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), which took off from Likabali in Lower Siang district, had crashed at Migging near Tuting killing five army personnel, including both pilots.

On 05.10.22: A Cheetah helicopter had crashed in a forward area near Tawang killing a Lt Colonel of Army’s aviation wing and leaving his co-pilot severely injured.

On 19.11.11: AIF’s MI-17, a multi-utility helicopter, blasted into flames midair 5 minutes after take-off from Tawang helipad, killing 12 defence personnel, including 3 pilots.

On 01.05.11: A Pawan Hans chopper, piloted by captain JS Babbar & captain T S Mamik, carrying then chief minister Dorjee Khandu, his security officer Yeshi Choddak and Tawang MLA’s sister Yeshi Lhamu, had crashed near his native place Luguthang, near China border, killing all of them..

On 19.04.11: Seventeen of the 23 persons on board including a pilot of a MI 172 Pawan Hans chopper were killed when it crashed while making an emergency landing at Tawang helipad and burst into flames around 2 pm while six were saved from the burning copter.

On 19.11.10: An IAF MI-17 helicopter crashed around 12.05 pm after taking off from Tawang helipad killing all 12 defence personnel.

On 06.08.10: A 24-seater MI-172 Pawan Hans helicopter’s cabin crew Dhananjoy Roy fell to his death while trying to shut the unfastened chopper door that had flung open midair when on its way from Namsai to Tezu.

On 08.05.01: A Pawan Hans chopper piloted by DGM Capt VK Dhir and carrying state Education Minister Dera Natung, education secretary Sange Lhaden, union HRD ministry’s Dy secretary SK Jain and two others had crashed into a high hill near Sessa in West Kameng district due to poor visibility, killing all on board.

On 26.02.01: IAF’s MI-8 chopper while returning from Tali after a ration sortie crashed near Ziro, killing all 6 crew members including two pilots.

On 14.11.97: Union MoS for defence NVN Somu and three top army officials, including Maj Gen Ramesh Nagpal had died when their four-seater Cheetah hit a 13,000 ft peak 40-km from Tawang.

On 06.06.95: IAF’s MI-8 chopper on ration sortie crashed near Bello village under Yomcha subdivision in West Siang district killing all seven crew members, including pilots.

After the 19.11.11 crash, then Lok Sabha member Takam Sanjoy in an interview to this daily had blamed the defence ministry for not giving due importance to this hilly state despite its strategic location. He had demanded an IAF training centre considering the number of air crashes, particularly in Arunachal, saying after the humiliating defeat in the 1962 Chinese aggression it is time to learn the lesson.

The aircrafts which crashed date-wise are:

On 23.05.17: A Sukhoi SU-30 jet with Squadron Leader D.Pankaj and Flight Lt S Achudev, which took off from Tezpur Airbase, crashed but both pilots could not initiate ejection before the crash that took place 60-km off Tezpur and died due to fatal injuries, according to IAF.

The wreckage of the jet was found after a three- day search operation on May 26 in a dense forest area in Arunachal Pradesh. Two squadrons comprising around 36 aircrafts are deployed at Tezpur now for guarding the China-India frontier in Arunachal Pradesh.

On 25.03.92: An Antonov AN-32, the workhorse of IAF, on a ration sortie from Rowriah had reportedly crashed along China without any trace of the four crew members, including two senior pilots and its wreckage. The defence ministry had ordered a court of inquiry.

On 03.06.19: IAF’s AN-32 aircraft with eight crew and five passengers, went missing after taking off from Jorhat air base at 12.25 pm for Mechuka, bordering China, killing all of them.

On 09.06.09: Russian-made AN-32 aircraft while returning from Mechuka after an Army ration sortie crashed over Tato, killing all 13 defence personnel on board.

In 1989: An Antonov AN-32 on a ration sortie from Rowriah had reportedly crashed into China side without any trace of the crew members at its wreckage. The defence ministry had ordered a court of inquiry. This was confirmed by then DST director A Majumdar.

It is high time for the Defence Ministry to get up from its deep slumber and take adequate steps to avoid such crashes, which have been causing invaluable losses due to death of pilots and civilians what to talk of the cost of those helicopters or aircrafts.

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