India defence chief’s pilot ‘disoriented by weather’: inquiry | Weather News

The government blamed unexpected weather conditions that led to the helicopter crash last month that killed the head of India’s armed forces.

A pilot disoriented by a sudden change in weather crashed the helicopter carrying Indian defense chief General Bipin Rawat last month, killing all 14 people on board, according to an official investigation.

Rawat, 63, was traveling with his wife and other senior officers in the Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter, which crashed near its destination in southern Tamil Nadu state on December 8.

“The court of inquiry ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage or negligence as the cause of the accident,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry said the investigation team analyzed the flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder and interviewed witnesses to write its preliminary report.

“The crash was the result of cloud entry due to an unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley,” the statement said. “This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in controlled flight into terrain.”

A day after the crash, India’s defense minister said the helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before landing and did not send out a distress call until to be found in flames in a wooded area.

Rawat served as India’s first chief of defense staff, a post the government established in 2019, and was seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The coffin of India’s Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat drives through New Delhi pulled behind a military vehicle [File: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

Her death received full coverage in the Indian media and her flag-wrapped coffin was towed through the streets of New Delhi on a gun carriage draped in flower garlands before being cremated.

He and his wife were cremated together at the same pyre, with a 17-gun salute as their daughters set it on fire.

Rawat was an outspoken and polarizing, yet hugely popular officer from a military family who had previously survived a helicopter crash in 2015 with minor injuries.

The general was on his way to the Defense Services Staff College to address students and faculty when the Mi-17 helicopter crashed in foggy conditions.

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