New Delhi: Death came suddenly and swiftly, without giving any notice to former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.
The transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), exclusively accessed by TOI, show there was absolutely no panic inside the chopper in its final moments. The then CM was relaxing moments before the Bell-430 helicopter - carrying him and four others - hit the hills that rainy morning on Septemer 2, 2009.
The pilots did not exchange any alarming words to indicate disorientation -- in other words, they did not at all realise the helicopter had veered away from its designated path from Hyderabad to Chittoor. The chopper was flying in blinding rain, and the pilots did not even see the hill in front of it before it crashed into it at a high speed of 140 knots, or almost 259 kmph (1 knot = 1.85 kmph).
The YSR probe is the most intensive chopper crash probe ever being conducted in the country, and is expected to be completed later this month. According to ATC reports, at the time of crash, the helicopter had fuel for a maximum flight time of 2.45 hours. After taking off at 8.38am, it remained in contact for 35 minutes, up to 9.13am, with Hyderabad Radar at which time it was about 150 km from the Andhra capital. It was to change over to the Chennai Radar at 9.13 am. However, it was just at that time when it lost contact.
The independent panel probing YSR`s crash had first sent the "solid state" CVR to the manufacturer, Bell, in US. Data from the electronic control units that control tanking and airflow was also studied. For this analysis, a Bell team came to India. Then last month, another team of probe officials was sent to the American National Transport Safety Board to get the entire data analyzed and get more information. This team will return by Tuesday.
The probe panel is finding out the numbing last moments details of the state-owned chopper (VT-APG) that was under the command of the highly experienced Captain S K Bhatia along with co-pilot M S Reddy. Bhatia, with a flying experience of over 5,600 hours, was endorsed with the type Bell 430 in June 2007. Reddy, who had 3,200 hours of flying experience, was endorsed to fly this type of chopper this January.
The CVR may have had some general conversation between the pilots but possibly the CM`s presence and the fact that he was relaxing, meant that the silence inside the cabin was not unnecessarily broken. This silence was only shattered by the sudden deafening sound of the chopper crashing into a hill, silencing all on board forever.
The debris was found way off the assigned path as the chopper lost its way without anyone realizing this, and the debris was found over 24 hours after the crash. YSR had taken off at 8.38 am from Hyderabad`s Begumpet airport and the chopper disappeared over the Nallamalla forest area in heavy rains at 9.35am. The debris was found on Rudrakonda hill, 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool, a place that was not on the flight path but where strong winds and destiny took the chopper.