The Siachen Glacier located in the eastern Karakoram range of India, happens to be the world’s highest battlefield for helicopters.
In an unprecedented first, creating a world record, a helicopter that crashed in Siachen glacier, has been repaired and flown back to the Siachen Base Camp. This is the first time in the 34-year history of ‘Operation Meghdoot’ that a helicopter that had crashed in this region was retrieved. The operation was launched on 13th April, 1984 to capture Siachen glacier and as per the earlier records, more than 40 helicopters that had gone down, never returned.
In January this year, almost a year ago, an Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv, of the 203 Army Aviation Squadron had crashed near the Khanda post located at 17,000 feet and authorities had decided to abandon it. A senior officer involved with the operation said,
“Initially everyone decided to leave the machine there … but subsequent inspections raised the hope that it can be retrieved.”
He also confirmed that a plan was put in place for retrieving the machine after clearances from the General Officer Commanding of the 14 Corps and the Director General, Army Aviation Corps. The Brigade Commander was involved in getting the go-ahead. Later, in February, a team from the squadron departed for Khanda, a journey that took approximately 15 days. The temperatures hover between minus 25 to minus 30°C.
Extreme conditions posed several challenges in terms of physical labour as well as technical difficulties. Load carrying capacity at that altitude had also drastically decreased. Despite acute conditions, the team carried out its work in a window of 60-90 minutes depending on the weather. They hauled the chopper back up, and got to work on its main rotor. The officer said:
“The main rotor had broken which we changed and once the Flight Data Recorder gave the right data, the DG Aviation agreed to fly the machine back. They also used oxygen tanks to fire up the engine.”
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