57 Years ago today: On 7 February 1966 an Indian Airlines Fokker F-27 crashed in Banihall Pass, killing all 37 occupants.
|Date:||Monday 7 February 1966|
Fokker F-27 Friendship 200
|Operating for:||Indian Airlines|
|Leased from:||Schreiner Airways|
|First flight:||1965-03-22 (11 months)|
|Total airframe hrs:||1930|
|Crew:||Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4|
|Passengers:||Fatalities: 33 / Occupants: 33|
|Total:||Fatalities: 37 / Occupants: 37|
|Aircraft fate:||Written off (damaged beyond repair)|
|Location:||Banihall Pass ( India)|
|Crash site elevation:||3768 m (12362 feet) amsl|
|Phase:||En route (ENR)|
|Nature:||Domestic Scheduled Passenger|
|Departure airport:||Srinagar Airport (SXR/VISR), India|
|Destination airport:||Jammu-Satwari Airport (IXJ/VIJU), India|
At 11:27 hours local time, the F-27 took off from Srinagar (SXR) for the return journey to Delhi-Palam Airport (DEL) with en route stops at Amritsar (ATQ) and Jammu (IXJ). The flight was cleared to climb VMC. A few seconds later, the Commander reported that he had climbed to 7500 ft and was turning to starboard. Srinagar Control requested a call while passing 8000 ft and the request was complied with. The controller then requested a call when passing 15 miles. No message, however, was received and at 11:40 controller asked for the position of the aircraft. The crew replied: “Will be crossing Banihal 2 to 3 minutes.”
Erroneous navigation took the captain to a point 12 miles west of his normal route. At this spot, the configuration of the mountain range has a deceptive similarity with the Banihal Pass, and has, because of this similarity, come to be known as “False Banihal”. The hills near “False Banihal” are several thousand feet higher than the true Banihal. The pilot must have realized his error and his wrong position too late when he saw the high mountain in front of him on emerging from the clouds. He attempted to climb but the aircraft hit the hill about 300 ft below the summit, at 12364 ft asl. It broke into two main pieces which fell on either side of a big rock, while several smaller pieces were broken off and scattered over a considerable area on the hillside. Some portions of the fuselage were found nearly 3000 ft below the point of impact.
PROBABLE CAUSE: “The cause of the accident was undoubtedly a navigational error. The Court was at first tempted to accept the hypothesis that the error was committed deliberately by Capt. Duggal because he wanted to take a short cut over the hill to Udampur, instead of going first to Banihal and then turning slightly right to the prescribed route to Udampur. Some support was lent to this hypothesis by the general assessment of Capt. Duggal’s character as being hasty and casual and disinclined to pay heed to detail. But after giving greater consideration, it seems to the Court that this hypothesis cannot be accepted and that the navigational error was not intentional.
The configuration of the hill at a spot 12miles west of the Banihal Pass does not snow that the aircraft would have had a clear passage at an altitude of 12000ft because there are hills which are 14000ft high as shown by the contour lines on the map. Also Duggal did reply to the call 0610 hours GMT when he said that he would be crossing Banihal in two or three minted. It seems to the Court, therefore, that when flying through clouds at an altitude insufficient to ensure safety, Duggal found himself at a spot which resembled in its appearance the Banihal Pass. He must have steered an incorrect heading on leaving the airfield. Changes in cloud formation and decreasing visibility did not permit a full and clear view of the mountain range which lay across the route. So, when he was near the point where it crashed, he thought that he was going to cross Banihal and sent this message to the airport. In point of fact, he was 12 miles off his track and crashed at a point 12364ft above sea level.
A more careful and cautious pilot would, in the circumstances, have made sure of his direction and position by a reference to the Srinagar Airport where, in addition to the VOR, an Automatic Direction Finding facility is available.”