Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging ]
Since 2010 there have been seven aircraft crashes in Arunachal Pradesh claiming 57 lives. This figure works out to one aircraft crash every year. Out of these, four crashes with 48 lives were in Tawang area only. The crashes accounted for the late Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu and Deputy Commissioner of Tirap district, Kamlesh Joshi.
With so many aircraft crashes, many are asking whether Arunachal Pradesh is the new Bermuda Triangle.
Bermuda Triangle is located in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, where numerous aircrafts and ships are said to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Why are so many aircraft crashing in Arunachal Pradesh?
There are many reasons for these aircraft crashes. The foremost reason is bad weather. It is widely known that weather in the hills and valleys of Arunachal Pradesh is very fickle. Fine/fair weather turns into bad or rough weather within minutes. Despite the knowledge of bad/ fickle weather, most of the aircrafts operating in our area are not configured with standard equipment required for bad weather flying like Terrain Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS), Weather Radar, etc.
The other factor causing these accidents is pilot error. Despite the knowledge of bad and fickle weather, pilots take chances to penetrate bad weather in the hills and mountains. Many pilots get carried away or get over confident due to frequent flying over familiar terrain and try to penetrate weather.
On most occasions, pilots are able to negotiate weather and return back to base. It must be remembered that no pilot wants to crash and die and their decision to penetrate weather is based on their skills and vast experience. It is only on rare occasions that their decisions turn out wrong and they end crashing. We require very mature pilots and aircraft equipped with standard equipment required for bad weather flying to operate in our area.
Another aspect which may lead to loss of lives due to aviation accidents are lack of essential services like Fire Tenders and poorly maintained helipads and airports.
The other aspect is stricter control on aviation in our area. The foremost requirement is formulation of strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Having formulated SOPs there should be a control mechanism for ensuring strict implementation.
For example, there should be a compulsory breath analyzer check of all pilots operating in our area before commencing flying. Another could be laying down weather criteria for flying in certain areas. For enforcing these SOPs and for exercising strict control over aviation, we require professionally qualified aviators to control aviation in our area. Most officials of the Civil Aviation Department, including directors and secretaries have no idea of aviation.
Civil aviation is poised to increase due to operationalisation of airports at Pasighat, Tezu, Mechuka, Ziro, etc. If these urgent steps are not taken, we may see more aircraft crashes and loss of precious lives. It is high time we remove this tag of Arunachal being called the New Bermuda Triangle. (The writer is a retired Group Captain of the Indian Air Force)