The Ecuadorian Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Ecuatoriana: FAE) lost a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Dhruv utility helicopter to a training accident in late January, the second to be lost this month and the fourth since deliveries began in 2009.
The accident, which is reported to have occurred on 27 January (the Ministry of Defence has yet to confirm it), happened near the town of Tena in the remote interior of the country.
According to the reports, there were no casualties among the four personnel on board.
Ecuador signed the agreement with HAL in 2008 for seven Dhruv helicopters at a cost of USD45 million. These were to be delivered in kit form and assembled in Ecuador, but this plan was later abandoned with the aircraft instead being manufactured in India.
In FAE service the Dhruv is operated by 2211 Combat Squadron, 22 Combat Wing (221 Combat Group), based at Simón Bolivar Airbase.
|Dhruv Utility Helicopter|
With this accident, the FAE has lost more than half of its Dhruv fleet in less than five years of operations. The first aircraft was lost on 28 October 2009, the second on 22 February 2014, the third on 13 January 2015, and the most recent reportedly on 27 January 2015. While at least one of these incidents has been attributed to pilot error, a loss rate of close to 60% is significant.
Dhruv crashes have not just been confined to Ecuador, the type's only export customer. India has also suffered multiple losses since introducing the type into service with its armed forces in 2002. Indeed, India has grounded its entire fleet on several occasions following crashes.
Whatever the findings of this latest accident turn out to be, the Dhruv cannot afford many more of these unfortunate incidents if future export sales are not to be adversely affected.