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Gen Rawat's chopper crash due to pilot error in cloudy weather: Inquiry

NEW DELHI, Jan: The panel inquiring into Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat's chopper crash of December 8 that killed the CDS, his wife Madhulika and 12 others has concluded that pilot error in cloudy weather conditions led to the Mi-17 V5 accident.

The Tri-Services Court of Inquiry, led by the country's top helicopter pilot Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, into the mishap has submitted its preliminary findings. The report ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage or negligence as a cause of the accident.

According to the findings, the accident was an unintentional collision with terrain (ground, mountain, body of water or an obstacle) termed as Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) in bad weather.

"The accident was a result of entry into clouds due to an unexpected change in weather conditions in the valley. This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in a Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)," the team found. In CFIT, an aircraft is in good condition and the pilot is in full control.

Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 12 others were on their way to the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) Wellington, to attend a function when the chpper crashed in nearby Coonoor, in Tamil Nadu. The chopper was flying from Sulur air force base in Coimbatore district where they had arrived from Delhi earlier in the day.

Those who died in the crash were: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Bipin Rawat, Madhulika Rawat (CDS Bipin Rawat's wife), Brig LS Lidder, Lt Col H Singh, Wg Cdr PS Chauhan, Sqn Ldr K Singh, JWO Das, JWO Pradeep A, Hav Satpal, Nk Gursewak Singh, Nk Jitender, L/Nk Vivek, L/Nk S Teja. The lone survivor among the 14 onboard, Group Captain Varun Singh, died in Bengaluru militry hospital later.

Wellington is a town in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. Nilgiris hill district is located at the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, bordering Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore district. The chopper crashed in Coonoor, three km south of Wellington, and 20 km from Ooty, the district headquarters. The weather was misty. Coonoor town and Ooty are famous hill stations.

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