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November 22, 1963: Coonoor incident rare but air crash of this magnitude took place in J&K 58 years ago

December 9, 2021
Data recorder of the crashed M 17 helicopter recovered.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others died in Indian Air Force (IAF) Mi-17V5 helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday raising ‘question’ over Indian Air Force ‘capabilities’. It’s not the first time a military chopper crashed. Every year, there are tragic incidents where soldiers lost their lives. Whether it is due to an ageing fleet or technical glitches, the situation remains the same.

According to data presented in Lok Sabha in 2019, one incident of transport aircraft crash was reported till June 2019. In 2018, there were 11 incidents of aircraft crashes. In 2017, there were five incidents reported. While in 2016, a total 10 incidents of aircraft crashes were reported.

The government in the parliament stated that every aircraft accident in the IAF is investigated by the Court of Inquiry (CoI) to ascertain the cause of accident and the recommendations of the completed CoI are implemented.

In this case also, IAF has ordered a CoI to ascertain the cause of the incident.

In the history of military aviation, two similar kind of high-profile air crashes occurred during the 1950s and 1960s, wherein the aircraft carrying General rank officers crashed. However, in the 1950s crash, there were no casualties and all passengers ‘miraculously’ survived.

One such incident happened 58 years ago on November 22, 1963 in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, in which Lieutenant General Daulat Singh and Lieutenant General Bikram Singh were victims. All six officers on-board died in that crash.

In that crash the officers who were on board were Lt Gen Daulat Singh, the general officer commanding-in-chief, western command, Air Vice-Marshal EW Pinto, air officer commanding, western command, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, general officer commanding, 15 Corps, Major General K.N.D. Nanavati, Military Cross, general officer commanding, 25 Infantry Division, Brig S.R. Oberoi, Military Cross, Commander, 93 Infantry Brigade, and Flight Lieutenant S.S. Sodhi.

Similarly, way back in February 1952, an IAF de Havilland Devon transport aircraft crashed near Lucknow. However, the miraculous survival of all passengers of was a godsend to the Indian Army.

Among those on-board were future Army chiefs – Lt Gen S.M. Shrinagesh and Major Gen K.S. Thimayya — as well as Major Gen S.P.P. Thorat, later Eastern Command chief, Maj Gen Sardanand Singh, Major Gen Mohinder Singh Chopra and Brig Ajaib Singh.

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