Focus on HAL after Antony says Sukhoi 30 crash due to servicing error

The Air Force's most advanced fleet of fighters is facing serious serviceability and quality issues with Defence Minister A K Antony admitting that the most recent crash involving the Su 30 MKI occurred due to a human error during the servicing of the aircraft.

The crash the third involving the fleet of Sukhoi fighters took place in December 2011 on the outskirts of Pune, with both pilots safely ejecting from the aircraft.

Antony's admission in Parliament on Wednesday has raised questions on Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) that is responsible for servicing and maintaining the fleet.

Last year's crash took place 15 minutes after the aircraft took off from the Lohegaon airbase. The pilots Wing Commander G S Sohal and Flt Lt U Nautiyal had reported a technical problem with the aircraft to the command centre soon after taking off, complaining that they were having difficulties in controlling the aircraft.

Now that the fault has been pinned to a servicing issue, the role of HAL has come under question. The matter has especially raised concern as a similar crash in the past too had been attributed to HAL. The second crash took place in November 2009 when a newly inducted fighter went down over Rajasthan after it caught fire in mid-air has been attributed to an 'assembly line fault'. The aircraft had been manufactured in India by HAL.

According to data shared by the ministry, only 1.5 per cent of air crashes in the past several decades have been due to human error on the ground while 0.6 per cent have been due to production faults by HAL.

Sources say the IAF has been facing serious problems with HAL over the maintenance of the fleet. The issues may escalate over the years given that HAL is now fully assembling the aircraft at its Indian facilities.

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