A military investigation has revealed that an air force helicopter crash that killed the Indian military leader and 13 others was caused by an unexpected change in weather that disoriented the pilot.
The helicopter was flying through a valley last month with General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 12 other army and air force personnel on board when a change in weather led the pilot to fly into the clouds, said the court of inquiry.
“This led to spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in controlled flight into terrain,” the court said.
The court ruled out mechanical failure, sabotage and negligence as the cause of the accident.
The Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter was en route from an airbase to the Army Defense Services College when it crashed near the town of Coonoor, a hill station in the state from Tamil Nadu in southern India.
The helicopter lost contact with air traffic control seven minutes before it was due to land and it made no distress calls before being found in flames in a wooded area.
Rawat, 63, his wife and 11 others were killed instantly. The sole survivor, Air Force Captain Varun Singh, later died during treatment.
Rawat was India’s top military official and first chief of defense staff, a post created by the government in 2019. He was also an adviser to the defense ministry.
His main task was to overhaul the army, which had struggled to modernize, and to improve coordination between the army, navy and air force.
He previously served as army chief of staff and also commanded forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir and along the border with China. He was a veteran of counterinsurgency operations.