The Indian Air Force (IAF) recorded its lowest accident rate in 36 years in the year ending March 31. The introduction of upgraded Western aircraft; quality audits of maintenance practices; increased use of simulators; and voluntary reporting of unsafe acts have contributed to the improved record, a senior official said at a recent media briefing.
Of the five aircraft that crashed in the last 12 months, three of the losses were attributed to equipment malfunctions: a bomb fuse misfired on an Su-30; a fan blade failed in the recently overhauled engine of a MiG-27; and a MiG-21 suffered a pump failure. Human error caused the crash of a Jaguar fighter and a Chetak (Alouette III) helicopter.
Over the previous four years, 45 aircraft crashed. According to statistics released to the Indian parliament on March 21, the service was losing 16 to 18 aircraft–the equivalent of one fighter squadron–every two years.
The IAF operates 27 different types of aircraft, including eight types of helicopter, six fighter models, 10 transport and three trainer types, all with specific maintenance features and with differing degrees of redundancy. In 2011 a safety committee reported that the high accident rate was caused mainly by technical defects pertaining to old technology and a lack of genuine spare parts.
Prompt delivery of parts has been a major issue with the legacy Russian fighters, leading to the cannibalization of aircraft for parts. The defense minister recently released a note to Hindustan Aeronautics to speed up processing for tenders for spares, a senior air force official told AIN. A recent ruling ensures that all new requests for proposals will include life-cycle costs and a clause for post-delivery maintenance. The first contract in which this clause has been incorporated is the one for 75 PilatusPC-7 Mk II basic trainers.