Pawan Hans chopper crash: Black box sent to France for repairs and decoding

After weeks of waiting for the helicopter manufacturer to decode the crucial information in the black box, it was found to be too damaged to read; repairs will likely take another fortnight 

mid-day follow-upOver a month has passed since the Pawan Hans chopper crashed into the Arabian Sea near Bombay High, but the events leading up to the mishap are still a mystery since the authorities have not managed to decode the aircraft’s black box yet. The black box, or the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) holds records of the last conversation between the deceased pilot and his missing co-pilot on the 14-seater helicopter.

Also read: Pawan Hans crash - Chopper's black box will be opened only next month

The aircraft and its black box were wrecked in the crash on November 4. The black box has now been sent to France for repairs. File pic
The aircraft and its black box were wrecked in the crash on November 4. The black box has now been sent to France for repairs. File pic

mid-day had last reported last month that the black box was yet to be decoded because it had been damaged severely in the crash. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decided that it would wait for a team from the helicopter manufacturer, Airbus (formerly Eurocopter) to read the data. There was further delay as the Airbus team’s plans to travel to India were disrupted by the Paris attacks last month (‘Black box still untouched, will be opened only next month’, November 27).

However, once the team arrived in the city on Monday, even they were unable to decode the data, as the recorder tape had broken. Explaining the situation an official explained, “Due to extreme conditions of the crash, the black box recorder was found to be broken. It now needs to be repaired before it can be tested at the manufacturer’s laboratory in France.”

The tape recorder has already been sent to France, where it will be followed by the Airbus team tomorrow. It is estimated that the box will require another 15 days for repairs. This is a major setback, as the information in it is crucial to piece together what happened before the crash.

“Decoding the DFDR is the most important step in understanding the reason behind the crash. Agencies prefer getting it decoded by the manufacturer. In this case too, the investigating agencies preferred not to take any risk and wait for the manufacturer to commence the process of decoding the black box,” said a DGCA official close to the development.

Meanwhile, investigators are waiting for the forensic reports on a clump of flesh and hair they had found in the aircraft debris. The flesh is suspected to have come from the Captain E Samuel, who is still missing (‘Flesh found in wreckage to be matched against DNA of missing pilot’s daughter’, mid-day, November 20). So far, Captain TK Guha’s body has been found.

“The reports on the flesh sample are still awaited from the Kalina laboratory,” said Balkrishna Gurav, the senior police inspector at Yellow Gate police station.

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