YSR Reddy, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, is currently missing. His helicopter vanished in the heavily forested district of Kurnool during what appears to have been a routine flight. There has been no contact with anybody onboard since 9.35 a.m. and weather conditions are dismal due to heavy rains, which means search and rescue operations are going to be seriously hampered.
I can only hope they all make it back safe and sound.
What really caught my attention, however, in the continuing coverage of this incident are the details pertaining to the helicopter. Talk about a bad news chopper:
The 10-year-old aircraft is not only missing its (mandatory, yearly) Certificate of Airworthiness, but its full list foibles is mind-boggling. For example, the Dalai Lama did a test run for Reddy a while back as the same chopper developed unspecified technical difficulties in midair when he was a passenger. Then there was a windshield that cracked and had to be replaced. And a couple of times in between, the pilot ended up hovering over the landing site, searching for a helipad or alternative space to park his machine because the chopper was fed the wrong coordinates.
This, by the way, is in a state with a serious Naxalite problem. If this is the kind of care and attention V.I.P.s get in Andhra Pradesh, the Naxals must be dumber than a trainload of bricks not to have run the place over by now. Reddy would have been better off in a helicopter he built in his backyard and piloted himself.
And if you’re wondering why this wonderful machine hadn’t been packed off to the junkyard (or wherever it is bad helicopters go to die) a long time ago, the answer is very simple: it was being used to train pilots. Because, you know, the best place for a pilot-in-training is in the cockpit of a machine that’s falling apart and hasn’t followed safety or security regulations in years. Who cares?
Until, of course, somebody important hops onboard one day and things hit the fan.
However, we can all rejoice in the knowledge that the chopper in question is also “equipped with at least two radio systems, weather radar and emergency locator transmitter, among other sophisticated equipment, and is certified for day and night operations.” It’s another matter that none of these is currently working, during the day or night.
Which is why the government is now asking locals in the area to keep their eyes open for any loud, unexplained noises or sights because that might be a helicopter crashing into trees rather than the annual meeting of the elephant fight club or whatever scandal goes on in those parts.
Too bad Kurnool doesn’t have Streetview.
Update: YS Rajasekhara Reddy 1949-2009