Thursday, September 6, 2012

Exclusive! So, we thought it was an issue only with the MiGs?

Pix Source-PTI

Neelam Mathews

Sept 6, 2012

How long will it be before we see more horrific images related to the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters?  Already, around 20 accidents have occured in the past years related to these machines. The reason is familiar- lack of spares in the international market as production of the Lama has closed down!

The French A√©rospatiale SA 315B Lama, single-engined helicopter that combines the lighter Alouette II airframe with Alouette III components and powerplant was licence built by HAL in India as the Cheetah and the Alouette III was license built by HAL as the  Chetak.

Aerospace Diary learns that with lack of spares in the market for the helicopters, HAL has started to cannabalise parts. Which means there are more AOGs - not helping the dire situation. Many vendors that supplied parts to Eurocopter during the heydays are no longer around. We hear that the EC blade production line is open specifically to cater to India’s needs. How long one wonders........

“It is getting impossible to support the vintage fleet,” an engineer tells us. “This will lead to disastrous consequences for the Chetak and Cheetah fleet. Blades, nuts, bolts, rings……We need them all. Now HAL is looking to repair even the main gear box,” he adds.

Last year in May, following an accident  of a BSF Chetak, all three were charred to death inside the burning helicopter. The DGCA report said the accident was caused  by the  loss of rotor pitch control resulting from probable failure of Hydraulic Drag Dampers in flight which imposed excessive tensile load on the Blade Spacing System. Something is radically wrong and someone better take responsibility fast.

Love former Army Chief or hate him, but a Standing Committee on Defense report tabled in Parliament pointed out a huge shortage of helicopters with the Army Aviation unit. Singh had written to  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the poor state of Army's war preparedness and the obsolete weaponry showed the factual status.
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Which brings us to the same old question that is now increasingly being associated with the dire situation India is facing. Where is the 197 light utility thrice released  helicopter bid? Do planners not know the specs they want in the first place? Or is there an agenda that none of us know but are willing to take a guess? It is nine years since the first RFP was released- are we looking at breaking the Hawk record?

India is becoming the joke of the century. Can it really afford to lose more of its young pilots through no fault of their own? It is time HAL stuffed its ego and faced reality. There is no way it can complete its LUH project in time to meet national safety  requirements…..and the only way to success is working with partners. 

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