Mi-17 proves itself in Uttarakhand ops
The June 26 crash of a brand new Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17 V5 helicopter during a rescue mission in Uttarakhand cast a pall of gloom over the force, especially the 157 Helicopter Unit in Barrackpore under the Eastern Air Command. The tragedy was a deep one, with the loss of 20 souls, including five air warriors. But the tragic accident aside (and a court of inquiry is probing the causes of the accident), the performance of the Mi-17 in both variants, the 1V and V5 has been exemplary in rescue and relief operations in flood-affected state. The workhorse helicopter has proved to be rugged and dependably in inclement weather situations that have suddenly caught pilots unaware. The navigation system on the new V5s have also proved to be extremely useful. The chopper has delivered high availability rates and generated an impressive number of sorties in the small flying windows available to pilots operating from Dehradun, Gauchar, Guptkashi, Uttarkashi, Gaurikund and other landing grounds. With an attentive crack maintenance team on ground, the over 20 Mi-17s deployed in the state for airlifting operations have established their reputation as no-nonsense machines for humanitarian operations. The IAF is contemplating more Mi-17 V5s, as the numbers presently in service are still not quite adequate.