An Indian Navy MiG-29K crashed on Wednesday when it veered off the runway at Dabolim Airport in Goa.
According to a navy statement:
An Indian Navy MiG 29K aircraft operating from Naval Air Station at Goa was involved in an accident on 03 Jan 17. The pilot aborted take-off during a training sortie. During deceleration, the aircraft veered off the end of runway and caught fire. The pilot jettisoned the canopy and egressed the aircraft safely. The fire was expeditiously doused by the safety services. A Board of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate the cause of accident.
The runway at Goa was cleared and services were restored expeditiously.
The Indian Navy has long faced trouble operating the Russian aircraft. According to a 2016 audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, “The aircraft continues to face operational deficiencies due to defects in engines, airframe and fly-by wire. Carrier compatibility of the aircraft during deck operations is yet to be fully proved and multiple modifications are being carried out to liquidate defects.”
“Audit observed (December 2014) that as of September 2014, a total of 65 engines (42 with 21 aircraft and 23 spare) had been accepted. However, since induction in February 2010, 40 engines (representing 62 per cent of 65 engines) had been withdrawn from service/rejected due to design related defects/deficiencies. The issue had serious flight safety implications, since in-flight engine defects had led to ten cases of single engine landings,” said the report.
“The fact remains that up to August 2015, the number of engines withdrawn from service/rejected was 46, indicating that even as the RD-33 MK engine was considered an advancement over the engine of the MiG29, its reliability remains questionable,” the report noted further.
The report also pointed out that in spite of monitoring of failures due to defects in airframe parts, “Audit, however observed from the protocol of the 18th Indo Russian Inter Governmental Commission – Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC) (August 2015) that defects had occurred despite numerous design improvements and modifications and regular occurrence of these defects on sortie to sortie basis was having an adverse impact on Indian Navy pilots training and capability of aircraft for undertaking prolonged deployments.” This was a specific reference to ‘Defect of shearing of side bolt of engine mounting, failures of INCOM mounting tray, failure of Radar scanner mountings.’
The CAG also reported that ‘Audit observed (December 2014) from the Agenda points of 6th Reliability and Maintainability Programme Plan (RMPP) for MIG29K/KUB aircraft that the reliability 56 of the fly by wire was very poor, ranging from 3.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent between 01 July 2012 and 30 June 2014 and measures were to be taken by RAC MiG to improve reliability of the system.’
Finally, the CAG pointed out the low serviceability of the aircraft, saying, “It is clear that the serviceability of MiG29K was unsatisfactory, ranging from 15.93 per cent to 37.63 per cent.”
According to sources, the serviceability of the aircraft has not been much better, recently.
In February 2017, the Indian Navy’s entire fleet of MiG-29K/KUB aircraft was nearly grounded because of a failures noticed in the performance of crucial parts including the fuel pump. Since the aircraft were out of warranty and any repair/replacement would have taken two to three years, the navy decided use its ingenuity and conduct repairs on their own, testing the parts by running the aircraft engines on the ground.