There is no official word from the Air Force on the probe’s findings so far. Sources suggested that the likely cause is not human or technical error but what is known as Controlled Flight into Terrain (CIFT), when the pilot unintentionally hits a surface.
CIFT means the helicopter was airworthy and the pilot was not at fault, sources said. In this case, reduced visibility because of bad weather in the Coonoor area, where the crash occurred, could be one of the causes, they said. CIFT is one of the main causes of aircraft crashes globally.
Air Force officials said the final report will shed light on the details of the accident.
The tri-services court of inquiry is headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, who is the country’s top helicopter pilot in the armed forces. The Court of Inquiry was commissioned by Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari. Before submission, the findings will be legally vetted to ensure that all protocols were followed in the probe.
The black box of the helicopter had been recovered soon after the crash, and the probe included going through the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).
The 13 others in the Mi-17v5 helicopter of the Air Force, including Rawat’s wife, and a dozen military personnel. The helicopter had crashed on December 8 as it was descending to land amid bad weather. General Rawat was headed to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.
On December 9, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had informed Parliament that the helicopter had taken off from the Sulur Air Base at 11.48 am and was expected to land at Wellington by 12.15 pm.
The Air Traffic Control at Sulur Air Base lost contact with the helicopter at approximately 12.08 pm.
Local residents had spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to the spot where they observed the wreckage of the helicopter engulfed in flames, Singh had said.