Bad weather causes plane crash that kills Indian military chief

The Air Force helicopter crash that killed India’s military chief and 13 others was caused by the pilot’s disorientation due to an unexpected change in weather, a military investigation has found

The tribunal said the helicopter flew over the valley with General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 12 other Army and Air Force personnel last month when weather changes sent the pilot flying into the clouds.

“This resulted in pilot space disorientation, resulting in controlled flight into terrain,” the court said.

The court ruled out mechanical failure, vandalism and neglect as causes of the accident.

The Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed near the town of Kunur, a hill station in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, en route from the air base to the Army Defence Service Academy.

The helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before it was supposed to land, and it failed to issue a distress signal before spotting flames in the forested area.

Rawat, 63, his wife and 11 others were killed in the crash. The only survivor, Air Force Captain Warren Singh, later died during treatment.

Rawat is the most senior officer in the Indian Army and the first Chief of Defence Staff established by the Indian government in 2019. He is also an advisor to the Department of Defense.

His top priority is to overhaul the military, which has been trying to modernize, and improve coordination between the army, navy and air force.

He served as Army Chief of Staff and commanded troops in Indian-administered Kashmir and the border areas with China. He is a veteran of counterinsurgency operations.