HAL probe on, Sukhois grounded
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With the needle of suspicion pointing to possible engine defect, investigators from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have reached the site where a Su-30 MKI fighter crashed near Jodhpur on Monday while on a routine training sortie.
Sources said HAL investigators, including an expert on engines, will conduct a preliminary inquiry by Friday. The fighter that went down was a brand new aircraft manufactured by HAL and was part of a new squadron being raised in Pune for possible deployment in Jodhpur. Initial investigations suggested a fire in the engine.
The entire fleet, India's most advanced, remained on the ground for the third straight day with no flying operations being carried out in Tezpur, Pune and Bareilly where the fighters are based.
"No flying operations have been carried out since the crash. In the technical sense, the fleet has not been grounded and the fighters will be available for operations in case of any emergency," an IAF officer said.
The IAF has close to 90 Su-30 MKI fighters in its inventory and has placed a total order for 230 aircraft. Of this, 140 fighters will be manufactured or assembled by HAL. The earlier batch of aircraft that have been in operation for the past few years were directly imported from Russia.
Sources said the aircraft are being inspected by ground crew for possible defects but the all-clear to resume regular flying will come only after the preliminary inquiry. This is the second time this year that the Su-30 MKI fleet has been grounded.
The fleet was earlier grounded after the first-ever crash involving a Sukhoi on April 30. The fleet was grounded for close to a month after a pilot was killed in the crash. That crash could not be conclusively investigated as the black box of the aircraft was completely gutted. Though the black box was even sent to the UK for forensic examination, little data could be extracted. A preliminary inquiry had pointed to "likely failure of the fly-by-wire system" which led to the crash.
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