Chennai/New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) The search continued on Saturday for the missing AN-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force that went missing on Friday over the Bay of Bengal and has been untraceable since.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar reached Tambaram in Tamil Nadu on Saturday and went on an aerial survey in an IAF plane over the area where search and rescue operations are going on.
There has been no signal pickup or spotting of debris from the missing aircraft yet.
The AN-32 transport aircraft with 29 people on board went missing on Friday over the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast.
“Defence Minister reviewed the situation and utilisation of assets and resources and has directed that if necessary more resources to be diverted to the effort,” Defence Ministry officials said.
“The Minister was appraised of the difficult conditions under which the operations are being carried out during the last 24 hours. The sea is very choppy and there is thick cloud cover in area,” the official said.
Parrikar has directed all top officials to be in touch with the families of those who were on board and provide them information that may be required.
“The search is going on. If there is any substantial development it will be made known,” Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee, Public Relations Officer for IAF told IANS.
Only a catastrophic accident in a “no talk/radio zone” or “dead zone” could destroy an aircraft suddenly, an experienced pilot with the Indian defence forces told IANS late Friday.
The search and rescue operation by Indian Navy and Coast Guard, which went on through the night, continued on Saturdaay and more assets were deployed.
Two P8I surveillance aircrafts and two Dornier are continuing the search while one Dornier is on standby at Port Blair.
One AN 32 and two C-130 Hercules aircrafts and Mi-17 V5 with floats are also on standby.
At present, 13 ships of the Indian Navy and four ships of Coast Guard are involved in the search operation.
A submarine was also sent for locating transmissions from the emergency locator beacon on board the missing aircraft. Emergency locator beacons usually get activated in case a plane crashes.
Those on board the AN-32 included six crew members, 15 personnel from the IAF, army, navy and Coast Guard, and eight civilians who were family members of the personnel.
The aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m., and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 a.m., officials said, describing it as a “routine sortie”.
According to a report submitted to the Defence Minister by Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, the recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar showed last pickup of the aircraft was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai, when the aircraft was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet.
The last contact with the aircraft was established roughly around 15-20 minutes after the take-off, sources said.
According to the IAF, the AN-32 is a twin engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin. It can carry a maximum load of around 6.7 tonne or 39 paratroopers.
The aircraft’s maximum cruise speed is 530 kmph.
“Planes are designed to fly even during an emergency. There will be reaction time to the pilots facing an emergency to send out messages for help or turn towards safety,” an Indian defence forces pilot told IANS.
According to the pilot, an AN-32 aircraft will not drop down like a stone or vanish into thin air in the case of normal emergency, as there will be reaction time.
“But in the case of a catastrophic threat, the pilots will not have the necessary reaction time,” he said.