Chopper pilots’ body seeks more security at helipads

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With police and other agencies seizing cash totalling crores of rupees during poll campaign from different parts of the country, a chopper pilots’ body has told DGCA that illegal carriage of cash and arms cannot be prevented till security is vastly improved at the helipads.

The Rotary Wing Society of India (RWSI) said lax security at most helipads, particularly the hurriedly-prepared makeshift ones in remote areas, could potentially lead to illegal transport of cash and arms during the election season.

Days after BJP workers allegedly thrashed a helicopter pilot for refusing to fly senior leader Gopinath Munde from Beed to another place in Maharashtra, RWSI in a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sought urgent steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

The pilot had reportedly refused to fly Munde citing fuel shortage and not having flight clearance for the new destination.

The letter came after DGCA issued a circular directing the crew of aircraft or helicopters flying VIPs for campaigning to ensure that no unauthorised cash, narcotics or arms are carried in the flight, among other things.

“The recent circular asks pilots to verify passengers’ baggage for cash or any other objectionable items carried by them. The VIPs are not generally used to them being frisked for carrying weapons etc personally by Captains as this verification is done by security agencies and not by pilots,” RWSI President Air Vice Marshal (Retd) K Sridharan said in the letter.

He pointed out that security personnel were not posted at helipads to subject VIPs and politicians and their luggage to checks, though DGCA has made the pilots responsible for carrying out the frisking.

Administrative and security tasks currently carried out by pilots should be handled by helipad operators and security agencies to help reduce pilots’ workload, he suggested.