When the Prime Minister’s plane crashed

Morarji Desai is remembered for various things (particularly his drinking habits and his birthday on February 29), and more seriously for being the first non-Congress Prime Minister (for what it is worth). He was also one of the few major political figures of India to escape a fatal plane crash (unlike Sardar Patel’s case in 1949 where no one was injured although the plane was written off).

A bit of legend has come up regarding this crash, citing the valiant crew of the IAF who “sacrificed their lives in order to save the passengers”. Things have not been helped because the results of inquiries into military aviation accidents are not generally released to the press.

In contrast, the DGCA now does put detailed accident reports on its website www.dgca.in

Click on the Aircraft tab and then Accident/Incident

Summaries of civil aviation accident reports going back to 1960 can also be seen there. You can even get this information back to 1950 through RTI.

Anyway, we come back to the crash of an IAF TU-124 near Jorhat on November 4, 1977. I was not able to obtain any Indian newspaper for that period. The basic details can be seen here:

https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19771105-0

The only picture available on the net:

As you can see, the front portion was badly damaged but the rest of the aircraft was relatively intact. The TU-124 was carrying 11 crew and 9 passengers. 5 of the crew in the front portion were killed while some of the passengers and other crew were injured, some seriously including the PM’s son Kanti and the then CM of Arunachal PK Thungon. The PM appears to have been unscathed.

Now the report of the inquiry commission headed by Air Marshal Subbiah does not seem to be available to the public. The next best reference may be this blogpost by a retired senior IAF officer:

https://tkstales.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/754/

Read it carefully. Many of the follow-up comments are of interest.

It does seem to be due to human error, but whether the crew or someone else in the IAF was responsible is still unclear.

The accident site appears to be near Takelagaon village near Bhalukmara railway station, about 10 km south-west of Jorhat airport.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/@26.6644431,94.1154097,14z

Update: A first-person account written by one of the IAF officers who survived the crash It has a few more pictures:

http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/history/1970s/1364-jorhat-crash.html

Footnote: More about Morarji Desai here:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/morarji-desai-everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-him-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

 

MH 370: The Saga Continues

The disappearance of MH 370 on March 7/8 continues to be one of the biggest unsolved mysteries the aviation world (rather, the world) has seen. If you Google for “aviation mysteries” you will find a large number of articles from the mass media. The long-running stories include the disappearances of Amelia Earhart, the British “Star Dust” and the Bermuda Triangle’s so-called mysteries of Flight 19, “Star Ariel” and “Star Tiger”.

All of these have longish articles in Wikipedia if you need to refresh your memories. These articles have a number of links to pursue if you are really interested. The standard book debunking the Bermuda Triangle myth is the one by Lawrence Kusche: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Kusche

Some unsolved mysteries (notably the ones involving the Bermuda Triangle) remain unsolved but there are reasonable explanations for these disappearances. Some mysteries eventually get solved; there several instances such as the Star Dust where the aircraft’s wreckage was located after many years. Lesser known cases include some from India; an IAF AN-12 with 98 aboard disappeared between Chandigarh and Leh in 1968 and was untraced until 2003. Another IAF plane, a Dakota carrying troops to Srinagar in 1947, crashed in the Pir Panjal range and was not located until 1980.

It is not generally known that dozens (if not hundreds) of US transport planes disappeared over the Himalayas while flying between Assam and China during World War 2. At that time the area now known as Arunachal Pradesh was quite inaccessible and not much was done to locate crashes unless there were survivors. It is only in recent years that a determined and well-funded American researcher  has located many of these crash sites. See http://www.miarecoveries.org/

Back to MH 370. There are a number of books listed on Amazon (mainly on Kindle). Some are pure fantasy but some reasonably sensible ones worth reading are: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JTELTJE/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MB938XE/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

I have put together what one may call a “Dummies Guide to MH 370” which can be seen here-designed to be a PPT presentation for 20 minutes. The main points as they were known in end-November are summarized here:The Mystery of MH 370’s Disappearance

If you want to follow some up-to-date sensible discussions on the ongoing searches and related technical matters, the best resource appears to be the blog http://jeffwise.net/

As it often happens, the comments are usually more enlightening than the blogger’s original post. I would particularly recommend his post of Dec 1 and the links starting with “The Spoof: Part 1” which make up an intelligent guess as to the modus operandi of the conspirators. Mr Wise later says that his explanation should not be taken too seriously but it does fit all the facts. It may be worth looking into his blog every few days if you are really interested in MH 370.

Extension: List of all Indian aviation accidents involving the loss of 20 or more lives

Continuing from my last post, here is a comprehensive list of all accidents in India and to India-based aircraft which resulted in the loss of 20 or more lives. Both civil and military aircraft are covered. The list is here:  List of Indian aviation disasters with loss of 20 or more lives  I intend to move further down the scale so that all such accidents resulting in the loss of 5 or more lives (plus a few more with other features of interest) are covered. These will form part of a more comprehensive survey in a book which will come out some time in the future.