The Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday ordered a CID inquiry into the massive fire accident that took place late Monday night at a hangar in old (Begumpet) airport. Five training Cessna aircraft along with state government's Augusta helicopter were gutted in the fire.
While initial reports suggested electric short circuit as the cause, police officials taking part in the investigation said they were looking at all possible angles including sabotage.
The hangar is maintained by the Andhra Pradesh Aviation Academy, which was operating the five training aircraft. Close to a dozen fire fighters were pressed into service to put off the fire that came under control after the day broke, according to reports.
The Air Force staff also assisted in extinguishing the fire, a spokesperson of the Defence forces said. The Air Force also uses the airport for training purpose and has a separate hangar. However, it did not suffer any damage.
The state government has lost its lone helicopter, which was bought in 2009 for Rs 63 crore from Italy, for the use of heads of the government and also for emergency purposes. However, the government expects to receive the insurance money as the helicopter was fully insured.
Public sector National Insurance Company Limited, the insurer of the helicopter, has already sent its surveyors to ascertain the cause of fire. The government was paying Rs 64 lakh in annual premium to the company, said NV Ramana Reddy, managing director of the state aviation corporation and special secretary to the government.
“Eyewitness accounts said electric short-circuit was the reason for the fire accident. However, we will be able to know the truth after the ongoing investigation is completed,” Reddy told Business Standard.
The five Cessna aircraft, each costing between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore, were owned by the Government of India and were given to the AP Aviation Academy for imparting training in flying, according to Captain SN Reddy, CEO of the academy. In addition to the aircraft, other material stored in the hangar had also been destroyed, he said.
“Police guards who were manning the hangar told us they saw electric sparks before the fire broke out,” he said when asked about the cause of the fire accident.