Pawan Hans suspends commercial operations in northeast

New Delhi, May 2 : A day after its chopper carrying Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu went missing, state-run helicopter company Pawan Hans today (Apr 1) announced suspension of commercial operations in the northeast.

"In view of the missing helicopter, Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL) has put on hold its commercial operations in the northeast for the time being so that these helicopters are available for search and rescue and the DGCA reviews the current situation," a Pawan Hans official said.

In a statement, PHHL''s DGM (Engineering) Sanjeev Razdan said the chopper carrying Khandu, Eurocopter-built AS350 B 3, was brand new and acquired in mid-2010.

The aircraft had a certificate of airworthiness from DGCA which was valid till July 2015 and "no discrepancies were found in respect to maintenance of this helicopter," he said.

It also had the latest technologies like, automatic starting system, First Limit Indicator, latest Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), Vehicle and Engine malfunction display and radio altimeter.

Its ELT operated on twin frequencies of 243 MHz and 406 MHz and its signal could be picked up by an ISRO satellite or any over-flying aircraft.

"Till date, the helicopter had flown 306 hours and done 577 landings, most of which in the northeast sector," he said.

The PHHL official said Captain J S Babbar and Captain T S Mamik were well qualified and had experience of around 4,000 and 3,200 flying hours respectively.

Both of them had the experience of flying in hilly terrain and were cleared for Special Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations, Razdan said.

Pawan Hans has set up a special round-the-clock control room at PHHL headquarters here to coordinate and monitor the search and rescue operations.

Yesterday, Meghalaya had suspended the helicopter services of Pawan Hans hours after the Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister''s chopper went missing.

He said as soon as PHHL came to know about the helicopter going missing, the company''s emergency response actions were launched and expressed hope that the Chief Minister and all others on board were "safe and return home early".