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Politicians who died in or survived aerial crashes
Published on 3 Sep. 2009 11:22 PM IST
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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a chopper crash has added to the growing list of Indian politicians killed in aerial accidents. In a country where helicopters are frequently used to ferry VIPs, some also had a narrow escape. Aviation experts say the helicopter crash rate is much higher compared to that of commercial planes the world over, and this is true of India as well. YSR’s chopper crashed in a forest while flying in a Bell 430 to Chitoor district. He was confirmed dead Thursday, 27 hours after the helicopter went missing. The tragedy is a grim reminder of the deaths in aerial crashes of Indian politicians Sanjay Gandhi, Madhavrao Scindia, G.M.C. Balayogi, S. Mohan Kumaramangalam, O.P. Jindal, Surendra Singh, Dera Natung and C. Sangma. Perhaps one of the first Indian political leaders to die in a plane crash was freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose -- on Aug 18, 1945 in present day Taiwan. But many insist to this day that he survived. Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, was killed when a glider he was flying crashed soon after taking off from the Safdarjung airport in Delhi in 1980. Scindia, a senior Congress leader and a former cabinet minister, was killed in a plane crash Sep 30, 2001 while travelling to Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh to address a public rally. Lok Sabha speaker and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader G.M.C. Balayogi died in a chopper crash March 3, 2002 in Andhra Pradesh. Balayogi was in a Bell 206 helicopter. An official probe ruled that the crash was caused when the pilot, unable to continue due to poor visibility, mistakenly landed on a pond thinking it was a land surface. Kumaramangalam, from the Congress, died in a plane crash in 1973 near New Delhi. Haryana’s then power minister O.P. Jindal, a noted industrialist, and agriculture minister Surendra Singh were killed when the chopper carrying them developed a technical snag and went down near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh March 31, 2005. Arunachal Pradesh education minister Natung was killed in a helicopter crash in May 2001. Sangma, the then Meghalaya community development minister, three legislators and six others were killed in a helicopter crash in September 2004. Punjab governor Surendra Nath and nine members of his family were killed when the government’s Super-King aircraft crashed into high mountains in bad weather July 9, 1994 in Himachal Pradesh. Nath was then acting Himachal governor also. But many were lucky Former prime minister Morarji Desai famously escaped when his Air India One crashed in Assam in November 1977. P.K. Thungon, who was the then Arunachal Pradesh chief minister and was accompanying him, also survived. Congress leader Ahmed Patel and union ministers Prithviraj Chauhan and Kumari Selja had a similar miraculous escape in 2004 in Gujarat. Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and minister Pratap Singh Bajwa survived one such chopper accident when it hit electrical wires soon after taking off in Gurdaspur in September 2006. Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal escaped unhurt after his chartered helicopter made an emergency landing in Ferozepur Aug 30. BJP president Rajnath Singh and vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had a miraculous escape last year when they were travelling to Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. The chopper landed close to a pile of dry grass that caught fire. The pilot immediately took off again and landed at a safe place. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot escaped after his helicopter fell on a tree in Chiru district in 2001. Aviation experts say the primary culprit in most helicopter accidents is the pilots’ tendency to operate under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) instead of the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). IFR allows pilots to fly by just relying on the instrument panels even if they cannot see anything outside the cockpit windows. The VFR, on the other hand, are used by pilots to fly by relying on what all they can see from the cockpit.

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