Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's chopper went missing while he was on his way from Karnool to Chittoor. Reddy was accompanied by his Principal Secretary S Subramanyam and Chief Security Officer ASC Wesley. There were two pilots also on board the twin-engined Bell 430 helicopter that lost contact at 0935 hrs IST with the Air Traffic Controller at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad when it was headed for Chittoor district, about 600 kilometres from Hyderabad.
Army, Indian Air Force (IAF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, Andhra Police Greyhound commandos along with local police and district officials have launched a massive search and rescue operation for Rajasekhara Reddy in the densely forested area which is also a Naxal-stronghold.
CNN-IBN spoke to National Security Advisor MK Narayanan to know about the latest developments in the search opearation.
Here is an expert from the interview –
CNN-IBN: What is the latest you getting from Hyderabad?
MK Narayanan: We have been very worried since we first learnt that the contact with the helicopter has been lost in the morning. Since then we have done utmost apart from what the state government has been doing to find the individuals and the helicopter.
We are using all the available resources in the search. At the moment Army helicopters have been searching the region, apart from that two fixed-wing aircraft with synthetic aperture radar capabilities have been pressed into service.
We are hoping they would come back with some images by later tonight (Wednesday night) or at least by tomorrow (Thursday) early morning.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has also sent a low flying aircraft into the region; they have also picked up some images. Hopefully by tomorrow (Thursday) morning one of our satellites in the region will take pictures.
Meanwhile, as it has already been explained by other people, the forces in the ground are also looking for the possibilities with which we can find the helicopter or the individuals. For the moment we are keeping our fingers crossed that there would be a miraculous escape in this case.
CNN-IBN: You have been in contact with the security forces as well as the state administration and of course the Defence forces, what is the feedback you are getting?
MK Narayanan: I have spoken to many people who have worked for Defence forces and other services where helicopters are used for the search operations and they tell me that there have been few cases earlier where people have been recovered after a long delay. However, most of such incidents have taken place in areas like Northeast etc where communications are far less adequate. Therefore, the situation we are facing in this case doesn't seem to be looking very good.
CNN-IBN: You are mentioning that lack of communication is a major problem there but at this moment can you rule out that there could have been a technical snag or a pilot error or a Naxals strike that might have got the helicopter down?
MK Narayanan: For the first two I can say yes but I would completely rule out the probability of a Naxal strike. Though anything is possible, I don't think the Naxals have the capability to bring down a helicopter.
CNN-IBN: It is going to be a long night, do you know when you would want to call off the search?
MK Narayanan: If we don't find the individuals or the helicopter tonight (Wednesday night) we will continue with the search operation even tomorrow (Thursday). There is no question about calling off the search till we discover what happened there. We are hopeful we will find the Chief Minister, his chief secretary and PSO without serious injuries.
CNN-IBN: There were some reports that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had declared that this particular helicopter (Bell 430) did not have an air worthy certificate, i.e. it wasn't fit to fly. Have you heard of anything like this?
MK Narayanan: Even I saw this report on news channels, I had no information about it. At the moment the question is not about the helicopter should have flown or not, right now we have to find the Chief Minister and the other two people who were with him. Hopefully we will find them.