Dhruv crashes: After probe, India offers to train Ecuador pilots

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Updated: March 25, 2016 10:10:20 AM

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has carried out improvements in its advanced light helicopter Dhruv after a spate of crashes involving the units sold to Ecuador, the government has said, acknowledging the problems that have dogged the aircraft maker and strained its ties with the South American country.

helicopter-reu-LSince 2002, 14 military and two civilian Dhruv helicopters have met with accidents, out of which 11 took place in India and five abroad. Out of these 16 accidents, 12 occurred due to human error and environmental factors while four others took place due to technical reasons. (Reuters)

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has carried out improvements in its advanced light helicopter Dhruv after a spate of crashes involving the units sold to Ecuador, the government has said, acknowledging the problems that have dogged the aircraft maker and strained its ties with the South American country.

Ecuador had last year unilaterally terminated its contract with HAL after losing more than half of its fleet of the choppers in mishaps. The country blamed the poor quality of the aircraft for them, but the Indian government at that time had said the helicopters were safe.

Earlier this week, minister for state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh had, in response to a question in Parliament, said India had acted on the complaint notice it had received from Quito and also launched a probe.

“After the inquiry, based on the specific nature of the recommendations, the required improvements/ corrective measures are being implemented by the operator, HAL and other OEMs as applicable,” Singh told the Rajya Sabha.

A senior official said: “Since India is keen on expanding its footprint in the LatAm region, it has also reached out to the government of that country, offering to train its pilots.”

The Indian offer could be taken up by the government of Ecuador as the country lost its 22 commandos in a major crash last week which reportedly occurred due to human error.

Since 2002, 14 military and two civilian Dhruv helicopters have met with accidents, out of which 11 took place in India and five abroad. Out of these 16 accidents, 12 occurred due to human error and environmental factors while four others took place due to technical reasons.

FE reported in November last year that a high-level team was dispatched to sort out the concerns of the Latin American customer after hectic meetings through diplomatic channels.

When asked, HAL spokesperson Gopal Sutar at that time had said: “We have no comments to offer on these questions as of now.”

However, diplomatic sources not wishing to be named confirmed to FE that a team was in Quito last year and there were intense round of talks between all sides involved and they had resolved the concerns of the Ecuadorian side.

“For the terrain of Ecuador, the Dhruvs were selected after competing against Russia, Elbit of Israel and former Eurocopter (now known as Airbus helicopters) as the best options,” a diplomat said.

Later, Ecuador terminated the deal with HAL that supplied seven indigenously built Dhruvs. But the Advanced Light Helicopters got grounded after reported mechanical failures.

Ecuador’s defence minister Fernando Cordero had announced the termination of the contract with HAL notwithstanding his Indian counterpart’s claim that Dhruv helicopters were “safe”.

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