New Delhi: To go by contradictory postings on its website, India`s civil aviation regulator seems to be engaged in a cover-up operation on the airworthiness of a helicopter that crashed last week, killing late Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
On Tuesday, the posting on the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on the Bell-430 helicopter, call sign VT-APG, stated its certificate of airworthiness was valid from Dec 5, 2006, to Dec 5, 2010.
However, the posting on Sep 3, the day after the helicopter crashed, had stated that the certificate was valid from July 5, 2006 to July 4, 2007.
Moreover, the latest posting says the certificate was issued on Jan 14, 1999, while the previous Sep 3 posting states it was issued on July 6, 2006.
On Sep 2, when the helicopter was officially listed as "missing", the DGCA had issued a statement saying: "The helicopter was in possession with a valid Certificate of Airworthiness No. 2390 with its validity up to 05.12.2010. It had flown for 2,812.20 Hrs since new and 325.10 Hrs from last C of A (certificate of airworthiness)."
This ties in with the latest posting on the DGCA website but contradicts the Sep 3 posting.
On Sep 3, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel asserted that despite what was posted on the DGCA website, the helicopter was airworthy.
It would be pertinent to point out here that airworthiness certificates are issued for a year and in some cases for two years - but certainly not for four years as the latest posting on the DGCA website makes out.
DGCA refused to comment on the discrepancies.
"Our protocol says that we are not authorised to speak to the media," A.K. Chopra, its joint director general (Investigations), said.
The helicopter carrying YSR, as the late chief minister was popularly called, went missing at 9.35 a.m. on Sep 2, an hour after it had taken off from Hyderabad on a flight to Chittoor, 588 km away.
Its mangled remains were found at around 8.30 a.m. the next day on a hillock 40 nautical miles east of Kurnool, 200 km from Hyderabad. Four others were also killed in the crash.
The helicopter was registered on Jan 1, 1999, under file number 4-2/99-AI(I) and certificate number 2981 in the name of the general administration department of the Andhra Pradesh government, the DGCA website said.
Powered by two Allison 250B 40C turboprop engines, the helicopter had a seating capacity of nine, including the crew.