Raipur chopper crash: Chhattisgarh govt-owned helicopter faced issues for years

The Chhattisgarh government and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have initiated investigations into the crash of a helicopter at Raipur’s Swami Vivekanand Airport on Thursday night which killed both pilots. The state government-owned chopper, however, had been courting controversies for years.

The AgustaWestland helicopter bought by the erstwhile BJP government led by Raman Singh in 2007 had been facing technical problems for several years. It was bought at a hiked price, a matter which the opposition Congress had raised in court at the time.

However, after coming to power, the Congress government had been using the helicopter, mostly for the Chief Minister. Following safety concerns over the chopper, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had borrowed another helicopter for his current tour of constituencies.

On Thursday night, the helicopter was piloted by Captain GK Panda, who had been serving the state since 2010. He was accompanied by night flying training expert Captain AK Shrivastava who had flown from Delhi to Raipur. Captain Shrivastava was a relative of politician Adarsh Shastri, who is the grandson of late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. The families of both pilots have reached Raipur to claim custody of their bodies.

The post-mortem of the pilots will be conducted in the presence of experts from the DGCA, sources said, adding that the officials will arrive later on Friday. The black box of the helicopter, which has been retrieved from the wreckage, will also be examined by DGCA experts to determine the sequence of events in the final minutes before the crash.

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