Chandigarh, Dec 16 (IANS) A helicopter which was to fly a Punjab minister crashed at the airport here immediately after taking off Thursday morning, catching fire and injuring both the pilots.
The Pawan Hans helicopter was heading to a helipad near Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's residence in Sector 1 here when the crash took place.
It was to fly Industry and Local Government Minister Manoranjan Kalia to Mukerian in Hoshiarpur district.
'We were to take off at 10 a.m. As I was heading for the helipad, I got the message that the helicopter caught fire and crashed,' Kalia said.
The pilots, S.P.S. Brar and M.S. Brar, suffered minor injuries and were taken to the Command Hospital near Chandigarh. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an inquiry.
Airport officials said the helicopter caught fire just after it took off. It crashed in the airport.
Airport manager H.S. Toor refused to say anything when he was contacted by IANS. He said the matter was being investigated.
Fire engines doused the fire. The helicopter was on lease with the Punjab government and was used to fly VIPs including the governor, chief minister, deputy chief minister and ministers.
Flights to and from the Chandigarh airport, which is with the Indian Air Force (IAF), were affected following the crash. Passengers were stranded at the airport.
The area where the helicopter crashed was cordoned off by police, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and airport officials.
In March 2005, two ministers of the then newly sworn-in Bhupinder Singh Hooda government in Haryana -- industrialist O.P. Jindal and Surender Singh -- were killed along with the pilot when an helicopter owned by Jindal crashed near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal escaped unhurt earlier this year when his helicopter, leased to the Punjab government, hit the branches of some trees while landing.
Former chief minister Amarinder Singh also survived two accidents -- one in Gurdaspur district and another at Pinjore, 20 km from here.
In the first incident, his chopper fell just after take off, while in the second the helicopter landed on the ground of a school after suddenly losing height.