On Thursday afternoon this week, a test flight had cost five lives to the city, when a 26 year old King Air C90 charter aircraft crashed into an open construction site in the crowded Mumbai suburbs. The aircraft that had touched the sky for it’s first test flight in the past nine was around 700 feet above in air on it’s way to Juhu airport when it lost control. The plane crash killed all four people on board that included both the pilots, Captain Pradeep Rajput and Captain Maria Zuberi along with aircraft maintenance engineer, Surabhi Gupta and junior technician, Manish Pandey. As the plane came down with a thunderous roar, the construction site watchman Govind Dubey too became a victim of severe burn injuries from the fuel tank explosion killing him on site. A CCTV footage was released which showed how fierce the explosion was at the spot after the plane landed crashing at the site.
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Though five unfortunate lives were lost in the plane crash, at least thirty five site workers were lucky to be on a lunch break in the basement of the under construction building, away from the explosion. The five bodies discovered from the site were sent for post mortem and as per ANI’s reports, the reason for their deaths were stated as “shock due to burn and poly-trauma” It can be said that the city was lucky enough for the aircraft to have crashed in an open space with less casualties. If it would have been a more crowded market place or if it had crashed into any of the sky high towers, the tragedy would have been the worst disaster to lives and properties.
The incident has been a great shock for all the victims’ families. Co-pilot Maria Zuberi’s husband, Prabhat Kathuria, in a very anguished state has put forward several questions while talking to the reporters. As quoted by an NDTV report, he said, “She (Maria) left the house assuring me she would return rather soon as the weather conditions were clearly not right for a test flight of a small plane such as the Beechcraft King Air Twin turboprop,” he also added “She was sure the permission to undertake such a flight would not be given,” Further questioning every person in the process he said, “We know that the aircraft was well beyond is prime. We know it was more than 20 years old. We know it had already had an accident in 2009 and that the UP government chose to sell it rather than spend on it’s repairs. Considering all…the family of Maria Zuberi wants answers. We want to know who exactly was at fault…. (UY Aviation) seems to have completely disregarded their responsibility to check whether such a plane should go off the ground,” Not even sparing the DGCA, he continued pointing out that DGCA does not permit of small planes carrying test flights in rainy weather. He said, “Did officers within the agency allow the flight that clearly flouted it’s own norms? We want to know who took the call from DGCA’s side,”
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Trying to be clear of any accusations, Anil Chauhan, Accountable manager of UY Aviation said that the aircraft was with “the hangar of a maintenance company, Indamer, for over a year and half undergoing major repairs. Though we have the ownership of the aircraft it was under the care of Indamer Company. The aircraft was not yet handed over to us; it did not have a certificate of airworthiness,”
On the other hand, as quoted in TIMES OF INDIA report, a senior commander also an examiner of the ill-fated plane said, “Test flights shouldn’t be carried out in poor weather. It was raining heavily in Mumbai when the aircraft lifted off, that isn’t an ideal condition, and the test flight should have been postponed,”
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The Quint also reported the statement from the father of the unfortunate Maintenance Engineer of the flight saying, “A day before she told me that she’s about to fly a sick aircraft. This is a clear case of carelessness. This incident could have been avoided,”
While The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is into probing whether U Y Aviation private limited meets the requirements for the Non Schedule Operators Permit or should it be cancelled. The aviation regulator has ordered a detailed audit of Indamer, the maintenance company. Though there loom a dozen of questions regarding this awful incident of the plane crash, the most troubling question is what made the engineers and the pilots get on that plane and have the courage to fly it despite knowing the conditions and consequences?