The flight data recorder retrieved from the scene of the Mi-17V5 helicopter accident on Wednesday may offer vital insights about the sequence of events that led to the tragedy, which killed 13 of the 14 personnel aboard, including India’s Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat. Locals allegedly captured footage of the chopper flying at a low level. It collides with a cloud puff and collapses with a loud thud within seconds.

While a tri-service investigation into the event has been ordered, experienced helicopter pilots believe the film plainly demonstrates that severe weather and clouding were the primary causes of the accident. The administration has not yet denied the video’s legitimacy.

The video, which has been extensively circulated on social media, apparently shows the helicopter entering a dense cloud and likely crashing within a few seconds, according to Group Captain Nitin Welde (retd), a former helicopter pilot of the Indian Air Force.

“From the footage, it appears like the helicopter was flying slowly. It entered clouds, as shown in the video, and was no longer visible after that. From the beginning until the middle of the video, there appears to be a difference in the helicopter’s sounds,” he stated.

KP, Commander Former navy aviator and experimental test pilot Sanjeev Kumar noted that the weather in Coonoor is often pleasant, with good visibility and beautiful sky.

“However, low drifting clouds, fog, and mist frequently blow in unexpectedly throughout the winter season, decreasing visibility and putting ‘see and avoid’ VFR (visual flight rules) aircraft in jeopardy.” Technical faults, if any, might also pose a threat owing to the mountainous terrain and/or poor performance.

“It’s advisable to divert or force-land if there’s a chance of not keeping these parameters.” However, owing to the nature of the terrain and the needed climb slopes, this may not be achievable in the hills,” he added, adding that the black box has been retrieved, so the precise image would be clear in the coming days.

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