Looking into the history of aviation disasters in India-2

Getting a full record of accidents of the IAF and its earlier avatar RIAF is not possible from official documents. The results of enquiries rarely make it to the press. However, newspaper reports have been compiled into this resource: http://www.warbirdsofindia.com/crashes.html . It stops at end-2008, but aviation-safety.net more or less lists everything after that. However, the Warbirds data has been updated up to 2013 and can now be seen at  http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/Databases/Accidents.html . Apart from the IAF, there are a sizable number of aircraft operated by the Navy and smaller numbers by the Army, Coast Guard and the top-secret Aviation Research Centre. (But then, many top-secret organizations have articles about them in Wikipedia).

Regarding civilian crashes (Passenger and freight airline flights, general aviation, some government and paramilitary aircraft) we have the DGCA which investigates them and there is some record of the enquiries. They also cover accidents to foreign aircraft occurring in India from the 1960s onwards. Conversely, accidents to Indian aircraft outside India are generally investigated by the country where the crash occurred, though Indian authorities are involved.

To see accident summaries, click on http://www.dgca.in , then on Aircraft and then on Summaries. These are mainly in pdf form from 1960 to 2009. There must have been summaries from 1950 to 1959 as well. but they are not on the net.

More detailed accident reports from 2008 can be seen by clicking Reports rather than Summaries.

Coming back to the summaries, they give the very bare details and the inquiry reports may not have been released to the public. Perhaps RTI applications would help if one was really interested. Anyway, here are a few accidents which would be of interest:

19 Sep 1965, Expeditor VT-COO which was the plane carrying the Gujarat CM Balwantrai Mehta which was shot down in the course of the Pakistan war. (This has received a lot of coverage in the news media in the last few years)

23 Jun 1980, Pitts S-2A VT-EGN in which Sanjai Gandhi and another was killed.

26 Apr 1979, Indian Airlines Boeing 737 VT-ECR near Chennai. Fortunately no one was killed or badly injured, but it was clearly a terrorist bomb. There does not seem to have been any subsequent report as to who was responsible.

In closing: there is no single book or online resource which gives a listing and details of aviation accidents in India and involving Indian aircraft. Perhaps it is time someone wrote such a book. Watch this space.

Next, I will provide a list of all Indian or India-connected aviation disasters in which 30 or more persons were killed. This list does not appear anywhere else on the net or in any publication.

Looking into the history of aviation accidents in India-1

Today I will mention the resources available for anyone wanting to find out more about the history of civil aviation accidents in India. Perhaps the most convenient is the US-based http://www.planecrashinfo.com which attempts to cover every accident with the loss of 10 or more lives and many other significant accidents all over the world. It covers both civil and military aircraft. You can search for various regions or airlines. Remember that India has a large number of airlines which lasted for some years and then vanished or were taken over, right from the 1950s. Then there is the Netherlands-based site http://aviation-safety.net/index.php which has somewhat better coverage of less serious accidents all over the world, and includes a wiki where readers can add details and accidents which the compiler missed. This will get you some of the lesser-known accidents in India and elsewhere. There are a number of books by David Gero (see his listing in Amazon.com) which offer more details of selected accidents. These books are a bit costly by Indian standards. Basically he has 4 titles which have gone through several revisions “Aviation Disasters”-last revised 2006; “Military Aviation Disasters” (2010), “Flights of Terror” (ie hijacks and other terrorist incidents)-also 2010 and “Early Aviation Disasters” (accidents before 1950) (2011). All major accidents involving India (as well as Indian aircraft abroad) are covered in these books. What remains to be discussed are primary sources for accidents involving Indian civil aircraft. Here there are some documents in public domain.  For Indian military aircraft  you can forget even that (except for RAF and USAAF records) and your only source is the newspapers. One must admire the dedication of some researchers who seem to have gone through the newspaper morgues in Hyderabad right from the 1940s and have got a reasonable database together. Will conclude the discussion of the primary sources the next time we meet.

A presentation on a few major Indian air disasters

Continuing from yesterday’s post, here is a presentation made a few days ago at a conference on Industrial Safety at IIT Gandhinagar. Here I cover a few newsworthy major accidents, namely:

Air India crash off Bombay, 1978

Air India sabotage over the Atlantic, 1985

Saudia-Kazakhstan Airlines collision near Delhi, 1996

Air India Express crash at Mangalore, 2010 (yes, this does make use of the “vanished” DGCA report)

A Study of Some Major Indian Aviation Accidents

Those familiar with the subject may find things a little compressed. Remember this had to be squeezed into 20 minutes!

Aviation safety in India

Aviation safety, like other branches of safety, has a public perception greatly dependent on what the general public thinks. This in turn largely depends on what the mass media decides to project. The current year has had two particularly tragic and peculiar incidents in MH 370 and MH 17, which may lead one to think that things are becoming worse. Not really. Improvements in technology in aircraft and communications technology have made things much safer than before. But there are always going to be saboteurs and plain incompetence of individuals in the system.

Let’s take a closer look at India. There was a time until around the mid-80s when there was at least one crash of an Indian airliner every year. Indian Airlines was rated among one of the world’s most unsafe airlines. But there was no fatal crash of any Indian commercial airliner between June 2000 and May 2010-which is particularly creditable as this period marked the expansion of many of today’s private airlines (admittedly aided by more modern aircraft).

Military aviation safety in India is another matter. Anyone wanting to make a serious study of this topic will end up having to depend on media reports of accidents. At least the DGCA is now giving more details of accidents on their website. Summaries going back to 1960 are here:  http://www.dgca.nic.in/aircraft/acc-ind.htm

and more detailed reports of accidents and incidents since 2008 are also there (click on Reports rather than Summaries).

Rather interestingly, the detailed report of the 2010 crash at Mangalore is now password protected-although it was not protected for several months. You can still find a cache somewhere on the net via Google. If that sounds like too much trouble, there is a reasonable summary of this and many other accidents on Wikipedia. Most (but not all) significant accidents are covered. In this particular case we have: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Express_Flight_812

Next I will be covering a few major Indian aviation accidents from 1978 to 2010 to illustrate what can go wrong.

What happened to MH 370?

Here is a brief presentation made by me during a conference of industrial safety at IIT Gandhinagar on Dec 4. See the Powerpoint which covers most of the facts known till now in a simple manner.The Mystery of MH 370’s Disappearance

Those who are interested in a logical explanation of the mystery should follow the blog http://www.jeffwise.net – especially his post of Dec 1 and all the links in it.