This Article is From Feb 03, 2011

Ageing choppers to blame for Army Majors' death in Nashik crash?

New Delhi: Two Army Majors lost their lives in a chopper crash in Nashik on Wednesday. Both pilots Major Atul Garje and Major Bhanu Chander died in trying to save civilian lives on ground.

Their ageing Cheetah helicopter developed a major snag immediately after take-off. Finding no space to land, the two crashed into an empty residential compound.

The crash has once again raised questions about the aging cheetah choppers that have claimed five lives in the last six months. In August, three officers had died in Nagaland.

Of 1970s vintage, Cheetah still remains the work horse for Army Aviation Corps in absence of suitable replacements. Some of them continue to fly even in the forbidding altitude of Siachen.

For three years, the Defence ministry has been promising to buy 250 new generation helicopters for the army but the plan has so far remained on paper after one tender was cancelled in the final stage in 2007.

No new inductions look possible for another three years given cumbersome procurement procedures raising the question: Will India keep losing young pilots because the government cannot decide on what to buy?