Coast Guard plane with 3 crew goes mission, search launched

Coast Guard plane with 3 crew goes mission, search launched

A Dornier surveillance aircraft of the Coast Guard went missing last night raising questions about the fate of the three crew on board as planes and ships were pressed into service for a massive search operation.

The aircraft CG-791, which was inducted last year, was in touch with airport authorities in Tiruchirappalli and was last located about 16 nautical miles off the coast of Chidambaram, somewhere between Cuddalore and Karaikal, a top coast guard official told PTI.

Moments before the plane went missing, it was trying to get in touch with air traffic control authorities, he said.

However, the plane could not be contacted after 9.23 PM yesterday, he said, adding these aircraft cannot fly above 10,000 feet and are mainly used for low altitude maritime surveillance.

It had taken off from Chennai at 5:30 PM on a routine sortie and was being flown by a "highly experienced crew".

"There is tremendous coordination among various agencies involved in the search and rescue operation and we are confident that we will be able to locate the aircraft soon", the official said.

Meanwhile, officials maintained that while life-saving parachutes and other gadgets were available in the aircraft, the lower altitude of the plane could make an escape challenging.

"On receipt of the information, massive search and rescue efforts have been launched by utilising all available surface ships and aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy," Coast Guard said in a statement here today.

"Five Coast Guard ships, four Naval ships, along with Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy aircraft and a long-range maritime surveillance aircraft P81 are undertaking search and rescue operation in the area," it said.

"The aircraft CG-791 was deployed along the Tamil Nadu coast and Palk Bay from the Coast Guard Air Station Chennai last evening and it failed to return to the base," the statement said.

The Dornier plane is the latest induction in the Coast Guard inventory and "was being flown by highly experienced crew", it said.

The Coast Guard is closely monitoring the progress of search and rescue efforts, the statement said.

In March, the Navy lost a Dornier surveillance aircraft when it crashed off Goa coast, killing two crew members.

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