A helicopter carrying Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis force-landed soon after take-off from here on Saturday as it was “overloaded”, officials said.
The incident occurred at around 9.30 a.m., when Fadnavis, accompanied by Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan and others were travelling from Nashik to Aurangabad, the Minister’s aide Santosh Bari said.
“As it took off from an open ground, the helicopter could barely ascend 50 feet or so and couldn’t fly further, compelling the pilot to land safely a few metres away,” Bari told IANS.
In videos of the incident which went viral on social networks, the chopper was seen struggling during the takeoff, its main rotor unable to lift and thrust it forward, but finally it stabilised and made a slow descent on the ground.
The chopper had apparently become overloaded and could not fly with the extra weight, so Fadnavis’ cook and his bag were off-loaded before it took off again after sometime, he added.
Fadnavis and his entourage reached Aurangabad after the 25 minute flight, while the cook and bag followed by road, a journey of nearly three hours, according to Bari.
Later, government sources said that the though chopper had a capacity of six people, but due to fuel issues, only four passengers were permitted on board.
“At the time of take-off, it was felt that for safety reasons they should carry three, so they landed again and requested the same. Accordingly, one person (the cook) was offloaded,” the officials explained.
Seeking to downplay the incident, they added that the chopper took off safely, it was a routine practice and not a major issue since Fadnavis travelled by the same aircraft.
Nevertheless, the incident alarmed the security and civil officials since there have been at least three other incidents involving Fadnavis’ VVIP aircraft in the past couple of years, including a chopper crash in Latur in May from which the Chief Minister emerged unscathed.