Nearly two months ago, the crew of Indian submarine INS Sindhudhvaj received the CNS Best Innovation Trophy for an unusual innovation. The famous Indian “jugaadu” attitude had saved India’s face in the international community, and had helped the detection of the remains of the ill-fated Coast Guard Dornier aircraft CG 791. The aircraft had crashed off the Chennai coast in June last year. Despite massive search operations launched by multiple agencies, they could not detect the remains of the aircraft till INS Sindhudhvaj took the plunge.
This is the story of the bravery of the men who fought all odds and risked their lives to come up with an innovation that would lead to timely location of the aircraft’s remains. Their brainstorming to correct the defect in an exhaust Klinket flap led to saving the lives of the crew on-board and finding the debris in the nick of time. Last year, on 5 June, CG 791 went missing with three highly trained officials onboard. “Time was running out fast. Generally, the sonar or the sound locating beacon of the missing aircraft goes silent after a month,” said the engineering officer of INS Sindhudhvaj. On the 27th day of the search mission, the exhaust Klinket flap between the control room and the third compartment developed a snag and got stuck in a shut position. The Klinket flap is extremely crucial in expelling the hazardous hydrogen gas, which gets generated during the charging of the submarine’s batteries. In the situation of the accumulation of hydrogen, the submarine faces grave risks, including that of a massive explosion. “Without having rectified this defect, it was impossible to undertake battery charging since the shut position of this klinket would have precluded scavenging the highly explosive hydrogen gas which is a byproduct of the electro-chemical reaction of lead acid batteries,” an officer told The Sunday Guardian. “For such defects, dock yard assistance is a must,” he said. But the team barely had time to go back to Chennai dockyard. They would have missed on the deadline of the sonar. “After 30 days, the sonar does not send any signals. In the absence of signals, detection of the aircraft is impossible,” another officer said. They prepared a metal trunking to replace the faulty klinket. “We made a complete trunking of 2 mm GI sheet entirely by hand, since there was no mechanical workshop or associated machines on the submarine,” an officer said.
Then, in a narrow passage which can barely accommodate one person, the crew started dismantling the faulty, 150 kg klinket. They worked in 58 degrees temperature, as the batteries could not be charged. “The new trunking was fitted, tightened and found satisfactory. The submarine undertook battery charging while remaining on surface and gained crucial time to undertake dismantling and refitting the defective kilnket,” the officer said. The submarine dived off the coast of Chennai to resume the search operation. “Within a day, we could locate the sonar signal, pinpointed the exact location of the aircraft debris,” said another officer.