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India's Showcase Chopper Crashes Ahead Of Airshow

The advanced light helicopter, named "Dhruv".
by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Feb 02, 2007
An Indian helicopter practicing aerobatics for an upcoming airshow crashed Friday, dimming New Delhi's hopes of finding overseas buyers for the Indian-built model, officials said. The advanced light helicopter, named "Dhruv", crashed on the tarmac of a military airbase in southern Bangalore city, killing its co-pilot Priya Sharma, they said.

"She died instantly and the helicopter's chief pilot suffered head injuries" in the crash at the Yelahanka airbase, an Indian airforce official told AFP by telephone from Bangalore.

The 5.5-tonne "Dhruv" has been developed by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) and is touted as a helicopter with both civilian and military application.

"This is a jolt for us," the official who did not want to be named said.

It was no immediately known if HAL will pull its helicopters out of the airshow.

Although the helicopters were briefly withdrawn last year due to faults in their tail rotors, India hopes to sell them overseas with trade inquiries reported from countries such as Chile, Malaysia and Turkey.

Yelahanka will be the venue for next week's airshow where 50 countries including Britain, Germany, France, Israel and the United States will participate.

For the first time, the US armament firms will offer air displays involving warjets such as F-16s, F-18/A Super Hornets, while Russia will unveil its latest Mig-29m supersonic fighter jet, the sponsors said.

Friday's air crash is the third accident involving fatalities during air displays in India.

A French-built Mirage fighter of the Indian airforce crashed during a military event in 2004 and a year later a Russian-made naval reconnaissance aircraft crashed during an airshow in the western state of Goa.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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