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'Helicopter may have made safe landing'

By Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad
September 02, 2009 22:33 IST
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The Andhra Pradesh Civil Aviation Corporation, which manages the two government-owned helicopters, has ruled out the possibility of the Bell 430 helicopter carrying state Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy having crashed.

Corporation Managing Director K V Brahmanand Reddy, in a statement issued in Hyderabad on Wednesday, said the helicopter was equipped with an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) capable of automatic transmission of its position. He said the ELT would have been activated in the event of a crash landing or any other unforeseen eventuality.

Reddy said one Dornier 228 twin engine aircraft, which is specifically equipped to pick up ELT frequency transmissions, was launched from the Indian Air Force base in Yelahanka, Karnataka, to search for the missing helicopter.

'The aircraft did not pick up any transmission in the target zone as identified from the last known transmission. As there is no indication of such an activation/pick up by satellite, we can expect no such eventuality. The likelihood of the helicopter having carried out a safe landing at some inaccessible location is highly probable,' Reddy said.

Rejecting doubts raised about the helicopter's airworthiness, the Corporation said it was fully airworthy. 'The Certificate of Airworthiness was issued by DGCA (the Directorate General of Civil Aviation) Hyderabad on 6.12.2008 with validity up to 5.12.2010,' Reddy added.

He said the helicopter's pilots Group Captain S K Bhatia and Captain M S Reddy are fully qualified, instrument rated and highly experienced. They have flown state government helicopters for the last three years.

'The aircraft got airborne with fuel adequate for three hours,' Reddy's statement noted. 'The aircraft last made contact at 0900 hours and indicated to be at a distance of 60 nautical miles from Shamshabad. The helicopter consequently made radio contact with Chennai Radio Control at 0902 hours. Thereafter, there has been no authenticated communication between the pilots and the passengers of the helicopter with any external agencies.'

Reddy said a command and control centre has been set up at Kurnool to coordinate all search activity. Air Commodore V S Bharati, commander of the IAF's Yelhanka base, awill be in charge of the operations.

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Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad