Following fatal crash, NCC suspends flying by microlite aircraft

Following fatal crash, NCC suspends flying by microlite aircraft

Microlite aircraft during the Prime Minister's NCC Rally 2017, in New Delhi. PTI file

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25

The NCC has suspended the flying of its microlite aircraft after a senior officer died and a cadet was seriously injured when one such aircraft crashed soon after take-off from Patiala airfield on Monday.

Though the IAF has ordered a court of inquiry to investigate the cause of the accident, sources said preliminary information emanating from the crash site point towards engine trouble.

The aircraft had crashed about 250 feet from the runway’s edge when the pilot, GP Capt GS Cheema, a fighter veteran, was attempting to touch down just minutes after he lifted off. “This indicates that the engine had either stalled or flamed out. This could have been either due to a technical snag or a problem in the fuel supply,” an officer said.

The aircraft involved was a Pipistrel Virus SW 80 manufactured in Slovenia. The Ministry of Defence had procured 110 such aircraft from 2016 onwards. It is a small twin-seater propeller aircraft that weighs less than 300 kg and its body is made of fiber and non-metallic materials.

These are used by the Air Force for monitoring bird activity, surveying airfield periphery for flight safety hazards and adventure flying as well as the NCC for motivational flights and giving cadets a live exposure to aircraft controls.

Majority of the Virus microlites are with the NCC, which also has a few older generation Zen microlites. The training syllabus of the NCC, which has 55 air squadrons with an average strength of 200 cadets, prescribes four sorties per cadet in the senior division.

This is the third accident in India involving the Virus microlte. In February 2018, an IAF Virus that had taken off from Jorhat airbase had crashed killing both the pilots on board. The aircraft had been completely burnt.

In October the same year, a Virus that had got airborne from the Hindon Airbase near Delhi crash landed in the fields near Bhagput in Uttar Pradesh. While the pilots escaped, the nose of the aircraft had suffered some damage. Flying by Virus has been suspended on earlier occasions also.

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