//By Mukesh Kaushik//
When all hell broke loose in Uttrakhad as Alaknanda and Mandakini lost theirs tracks last month, Made in India choppers descended in devbhoomi like Devdoots and saved thousands of lives. Braving difficult terrains of hills and valleys with equally hostile weather out to test the endurance of the machines to the hilt, indigenous helicopter Dhriv did wonders and earned the accolades of pilots of Army and IAF both. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) produced Cheetah and Chetak light utility choppers too played a leading role in the biggest ever helicopter based rescue operation of Indian defence forces in flood and rain-hit areas. These copters deployed over flood and landslide affected areas in Uttarakhand performed effectively in dropping paratroopers, evacuating stranded people and in supply of food and medicines. The helicopters made hundreds of sorties in the high risk zone overcoming strong winds, visibility and with virtually no space for landing on high terrains. HAL teams were positioned at Deharadun and Delhi to ensure logistic support for the rescue operations. Dhruv which can carry 16 passengers was the star performer. On many occasions, due to incessant rain IAF pilots could only use Dhruv as it was unsafe for other copters to land. Dhruv helicopters flew for nearly 630 hours during the operation and Cheetah/Chetak flew 520 hours. During Operation Rahat, which lasted more than two weeks, Air Force deployed more than forty choppers including 14 Advanced Light Helicopter_Dhruv and 3 Cheetas while Indian Army also put in its air assets flying around 660 hours of sorties. Air Force flew more than 1850 sorties to evacuate 15000 stranded people from various flood affected areas. These choppers also dropped more than 20 thousands kg of relief materiel. “The indigenized helicopters pressed into service by the Army and the Air Force in flood-hit areas have proved their mettle in carrying out rescue and relief operations in highly inaccessible areas. We are proud of it”, says Dr. R.K. Tyagi, Chairman, HAL. HAL designed, developed and produced Dhruv helicopters have been delivered to the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and the Coast Guard. These choppers are also exported. The advanced technology features incorporated in the design of Dhruv include hingeless main rotor and bearingless tail rotor; integrated dynamic system encompassing main gear box and upper controls in a single housing; higher powered Shakti engines; integrated architecture display system (glass cockpit); duplex automatic flight control system; redundancy with twin engine, dual hydraulics and controls; 30 min dry running capability of gear boxes; crashworthy bottom structure, landing gear, crew seat and fuel tanks with self-sealing capability; extensive use of composite material on fuselage and rotor system; integration of role and optional equipments such as rescue hoist, stretchers and cargo-hook. Dhurv also has advanced avionics (communication, navigation & surveillance), electrical mission systems. All this makes Dhruv, a versatile multi-mission, multi-role helicopter capable of operating in all-weather and extreme climate conditions ensuring high degree of reliability and survivability. Based on the expertise of Dhruv, HAL undertook the Design & Development of Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). DHRUV SAVED FROM LANDSLIDS This incident shows how our pilots love Made in India Dhruv. Frantic sound of warning whistles woke up the pilots resting in ITBP mess at Gauchar in Uttarakhand in the intervening of Thursday and Friday. Everyone was asked to vacate the area. Sound of stones rolling down the hill created a scary rumble. Pilots, who were on DG ITBP commitment realised that their helicopter a ALH MK I, is parked at ITBP helipad and was likely to get damaged by the landslide. The pilots would not leave their machine behind and only alternative was to fly it out by night, in the drizzle and poor weather. Although Gauchar ALG was just 5-7 minutes flight, but there are no night aids, not even basic airfield lighting. Besides, rules do not permit night flying in the hills. Pilots then took advise from Task Force Commander, Air Cmde Rajesh Isser. After speaking to them the TFC was assured of the pilots confidence and ability to undertake the task. He briefed them for the mission and simultaneously activated other pilots and ATC at Gauchar to reach the ALG with torches and use vehicle lights to provide whatever assistance they could with the available resources. At 2355 h the helicopter started in the dark drizzling valley and negotiating the weather, successfully relocated to Gauchar ALG. After having evacuated hundreds of pilgrims in the area it was now the turn of the helicopter to be evacuated, to safety. The seasoned pilots did not want to leave their machine to face the natures fury. By evacuating it, they once again raised the bar for the IAF motto ‘Man Machine and Mission”.