NEW DELHI: Ahead of Char Dham Yatra, slated to commence on May 3, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday issued a circular for the conduct of helicopter pilgrimage operation for 2023.
The circular lays down the responsibilities of the helicopter operators and also certain guidance or guidelines to respective Shrine Boards or District Administration to ensure safe and smooth helicopter operations.
Further, according to the circular, intense seasonal helicopter operations are conducted every year for religious pilgrimages to various shrines such as Shri AmarnathJi, Shri Kedarnath Ji, Char Dham, Mata Machhail, Mani Mahesh etc.
Similar operations are also undertaken round the year for a pilgrimage to shrines such as Mata Vaishno Devi.
The helicopter services are conducted under the aegis of respective Shrine Boards / District Administrations by various helicopter NSOP (Non-Scheduled Operators) holders.
Most of these shrines are located in the hills and the seasonal operations especially occur in the hot and humid summer months with rapidly changing weather conditions, including sudden clouding and/or precipitation. These operations are undertaken from various government or privately-owned helipads to shrine helipads owned or managed by the respective Shrine Board / District Administration.
Guidelines for helicopter operators include the installation of CCTV cameras (for surveillance) at their helipads covering the helipad safety area, as well as the take-off and approach funnels. An uninterrupted (standby) power supply shall be ensured to obviate any loss of data due to power outages. The recorded data shall be maintained for a minimum period of 14 days.
It further reads that AIRS (Airborne Image Recording System) are being installed and used in helicopters utilised for pilgrimage operations. The recorded data shall be serially numbered/identified and maintained for a minimum period of 14 days. All helicopters installed with AIRS shall be activated for the pilgrimage / seasonal yatra season of 2023. The Head of Flight Safety of the operator shall conduct FOQA (Flight Operations Quality Assurance) once every 7 days for each helicopter registration number / MSN, by retrieving and analysing the data of flight parameters.
These guidelines are for various yantras-Shri Kedarnath Yatra, Chardham Yatra, Shri Amarnath Yatra, Mata Machail Yatra, Mani Mahesh Yatra, Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra and Emergency Response Plan.
On October 18, 2022, seven people, including the pilot, died after a helicopter ferrying pilgrims back from Kedarnath shrine crashed midway, before reaching the base station, near Garud Chatti.
Similarly, on June 5, DGCA issued an advisory to all chopper operators plying on the Char Dham pilgrimage routes after a hard landing of a helicopter ferrying pilgrims to the high-altitude Kedarnath shrine was reported.