There is no official word from the Air Force on the findings of the investigation so far. Sources have suggested that the probable cause is not human or technical error, but what is known as a Controlled Terrain Impact (CIFT), when the pilot unintentionally strikes a surface.
CIFT means the helicopter was airworthy and the pilot was not at fault, sources said. In this case, reduced visibility due to bad weather in the Coonoor area, where the crash occurred, could be one of the causes, they said. CIFT is one of the leading causes of plane crashes in the world.
Air Force officials said the final report would shed light on the details of the crash.
The Tri-Service Court of Inquiry is headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, who is the country’s top helicopter pilot in the armed forces. The Court of Inquiry was mandated by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari. Prior to submission, results will be legally verified to ensure all protocols have been followed in the probe.
The helicopter’s black box was recovered shortly after the crash, and the probe included examination of the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
The other 13 in the Air Force Mi-17v5 helicopter, including Rawat’s wife, and a dozen soldiers. The helicopter crashed on December 8 as it descended to land in inclement weather. General Rawat was on his way to the Defense Services Staff College in Wellington.
On December 9, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh informed Parliament that the helicopter took off from Sulur Air Base at 11:48 a.m. and was due to land in Wellington at 12:15 p.m.
Sulur Air Base Air Traffic Control lost contact with the helicopter at around 12:08 a.m.
Local residents had spotted a fire in the forest near Coonoor and rushed to where they observed the wreckage of the helicopter engulfed in flames, Singh said.