New Delhi: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu was flying in an AS350 B3 helicopter that crashed in Lobothang at an altitude of 10,000, near Sela Pass, the third highest pass in the world.
The helicopter was operated by Pawan Hans, that has a fleet of about 40 helicopters including three Eurocopter AS350 B3s. There are over 900 AS350 B3 helicopters currently in service across the world including Antartica.
The AS350 B3 is said to be an ideal flying machine in extreme weather and geographical conditions. On May 14, 2005 the AS350 B3 became the first helicopter to land on the highest mountain peak in the world, Mount Everest. During its Everest conquest the helicopter climbed 3,000 meters in just 2 minutes and 21 seconds. Eurocopter launched an improved version of the helicopter called AS350 B3e at Heli-Expo 2011.
The single-engine helicopter can accommodate one pilot and six passengers and is also used for air medical transportation and load transportation. The AS350 B3 helicopters have a maximum speed of 287 kmph and can cover up to 638 kilometres on a full tank.
According to Aviation Safety Network statistics there have been 48 accidents involving AS350 B3s have been reported from across the world since 1999 resulting in 40 deaths. 10 of the 49 accidents happened in 2010 alone. There have been as many as as 348 reported AS350 series accidents since 1979 with 408 causalities.
While the reason behind the April 30, 2011 crash is yet to be investigated, some of the AS350 B3 accidents have been due to human errors. A 2003 AS350 B3 crash in Brazil happened because the pilot mistook litres for gallons while refuelling and departed with 60 per cent less fuel than required for the flight.