Ranchi, Oct. 7: The state home department today advertised for a vacancy weeks after the pilot of Jharkhand police’s lone Dhruv helicopter expressed unwillingness to renew his contract at the back of the aircraft’s recent track record of accidents and close shaves.
Sources said Captain S.P. Verma’s one-year contract with the state was about to end in a matter of days, adding he had ruled out the option of extending the term. He wrote a letter to the home department explaining his reluctance to continue more than three weeks ago.
Jharkhand has two BSF-owned Dhruv helicopters meant for use in anti-Naxalite operations. While one is with the CRPF, the state police operate the other.
An advertisement of the home department published in a vernacular daily invited applications on an “immediate basis before October 15”.
“Wanted applications for immediate enrolment as helicopter pilot, preferably ALH (advanced light helicopter) Dhruv rated, on contract basis,” it read.
The applicant should have a valid licence with an experience of flying 2,000 hours on a helicopter, including 1,000 hours in single-engine and a minimum of 200 on multi-engine aircraft.
This apart, 50 hours of experience in night flying mode was also required.
Speaking to The Telegraph, IG (provisions) R.K. Mallick said that since the pilot’s contract was almost over, they had no option but to hunt for a replacement as soon as possible.
Asked about retaining Verma, he replied, “We considered it but he refused. I don’t know the reasons, as he will be in a better person to explain. I think one has every right to decide whether to renew or not renew his contract.”
Verma could not be contacted for comments.
But a senior official in the civil aviation department opined that not many pilots were willing to fly the Dhruv choppers, which had recorded a number of accidents in recent times.
Dhruv choppers have met with three major accidents in and around Jharkhand in the past one year.
On October 19 2011, a 14-seater helicopter used by the CRPF in anti-Naxalite operations, crashed 11 minutes after take-off from Ranchi on its outskirts while it was headed for Chaibasa.
The pilot, Captain S.P. Singh, co-pilot Captain K.B. Thomas and technician Manoj Swain were killed.
On January 15, a Dhruv stationed in Raipur crashed during a test flight near the Chhattisgarh capital, leaving its pilot with a broken backbone.
And on April 5, armed rebels targeted a chopper during a joint operation by the CRPF and state police in Latehar. Bullets fired by the rebels hit the aircraft, damaging its body and rotor blades, though there was no casualty.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had imposed had imposed a flying ban on all the BSF-managed Dhruv helicopters following the Raipur incident. The ban was revoked in March.
“Dhruv choppers have had many brushes with mishaps and flying in difficult terrain is always a risky affair,” said a source in the civil aviation department.
The state also received two Mi17 copters for anti-Maoist operations last year, both of which are being used by the CRPF.