DGCA imposes INR 5 lakh penalty on 5 helicopter operators at Kedarnath

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has imposed a penalty of ₹5 lakh each on five helicopter operators ferrying pilgrims to Kedarnath shrine over irregularities in flying records, officials mentioned.

The incident happened at a time when the Char Dham pilgrimage was in full swing in Uttarakhand. So far, at least 450,000 pilgrims have embarked on the pilgrimage since its re-opening on May 6 after a gap of 2 years due to the pandemic.

The irregularities and violations came to light during an audit conducted in June, days after a chopper ferrying pilgrims to the high-altitude shrine made a hard landing on May 31.

DGCA imposes INR 5 lakh penalty on 5 helicopter operators at Kedarnath

On May 31, at about 01:30 PM, a Thambi Aviation Pvt Ltd Bell 407 helicopter executed an un-stabilized approach in marginal weather, resulting in a very hard landing with consequent uncontrolled yaw for about 270 degrees.

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The director general of DGCA formed a team for spot check of the choppers involved in shuttle operations in Kedarnath, an official in Uttarakhand Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) said.

“On June 7th and 8th, the team conducted a spot check in which serious violations came to light, prompting it to hold a detailed audit of all operators undertaking the shuttle operations,” the official added.

DGCA also suspended officials of two other operators for three months over violation of safety regulations.

DGCA has also issued an operational advisory to all operators for strict compliance to safety standards as per the joint SOP issued for these operations.

The advisory has asked pilots to exercise caution about tailwinds during approaches at the four high-altitude shrines, especially at Kedarnath which faces a constraint of a one-way approach.

“During the audit that had taken place between June 13 and June 16, it was discovered that five operators were not keeping accurate flying records in their technical log books.”

Arun Kumar, Director General of DGCA

Two more people were discovered to have broken the joint standard operating procedure’s rules. DGCA opted not to release the operators’ names.

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