Kedarnath Yatra: Pilgrims who have visited Kedarnath know the challenges that come with it. From gruesome cold weather, difficult terrain to the high altitude and drop in temperature, Kedarnath trek is one of the most difficult treks and also the most sought after treks in the country.
In the past, there have been many accidents and incidents during the Kedarnath yatra which have raised concern regarding the safety of travelers, and this involves air safety as well. As difficult as the trails are, air travel in Kedarnath isn’t very easy either. The helicopter crash in Kedarnath in October 2022 had brought forth the government’s focus on air safety in the area. In fact, there was another helicopter accident in April which was carrying an official.
The government has taken stringent steps to avoid such incidents in the future. The DGCA has installed weather cameras at helipads and put in place some additional checks for pilots to ensure safe helicopter operations during the Kedarnath pilgrimage season, reports PTI.
DGCA’s additional checks for pilots
The report suggests that a mandate for additional hill check has been put in place for the pilots who are operating at helipads located at or above 10,000 feet for the current Kedarnath yatra season, which started in April. A senior official said that this additional step will help in ensuring that pilots operating at high-altitude helipads are trained and thoroughly checked for safe operations in these conditions.
Weather cameras enroute Kedarnath
Unpredictable weather at Kedarnath is a major problem and to tackle this, DGCA has now installed weather cameras at Kedarnath helipad and at different vantage points enroute. These cameras will make sure that a live video feed on actual weather conditions are available and accordingly monitored.
An official told PTI that the feed of these cameras will be available at the operation rooms of helicopter operators and on mobile apps for pilots to help them in the decision-making process. The surveillance cameras have also been installed at these operator helipads. These cameras also have the ability to record the footage for a minimum of 14 days. This is also going to help the DGCA in identifying any non-compliance issue.
Airborne Image Recording System
The DGCA has also activated the Airborne Image Recording System (AIRS) which will be installed in a helicopter that is being operated during the Kedarnath yatra.
The official, as quoted by PTI, said that the AIRS records any flying object or instrument by video recording the cockpit and by recording certain parameters using GPS. “The mandatory activation of this system (only in those helicopters equipped with this system) allows the benefit of post flight analysis of the flight parameters ensuring compliance to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by pilots,” the official said.
The Kedarnath Yatra this year began on April 25. The official informed that around 4,200 shuttle flights carrying about 23,000 passengers were operated from April 25 to May 19. Meanwhile, on April 23, an Uttarakhand government official was on his way to inspect the Kedarnath helipad in a helicopter, which met with an accident. The official was wounded in the incident.
It is safe to say that these measures were much needed and have been put in place at the right time to ensure air travel for pilots and pilgrims.