No sign of missing IAF aircraft

No sign of missing IAF aircraft

No sign of missing IAF aircraft

The fate of 29 people on board the Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft that went missing over the Bay of Bengal on Friday morning is still unclear as search operations continued till late into Saturday.

“The operation is still going on..the rescue team, including the navy, air force and the coast guard are still searching,” a senior official in the defence ministry told DH.

The official said the AN-32 aircraft is capable of flying four hours continuously and therefore, it might have landed somewhere. “There might be a technical problem.

However, it cannot be concluded at this point of time,” the official added.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was at the Tambaram airbase station in Chennai on Saturday, went along with IAF personnel for a joint sortie, and was briefed by the defence authorities on how the search operation was progressing.

Parrikar visited INS Rajali, the Naval Air Station at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu. He reviewed the search operation and asked the officials to deploy more assets of the navy and IAF for the search operation. He also flew over the search area in a P-8i long-range maritime patrol aircraft of the navy.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Vice Admiral H C S Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, were also present when the minister reviewed the progress of the search operations.

“The state of the sea is very choppy with thick monsoon clouds in the area making the search effort quite challenging,” said a defence ministry official.

Parrikar, however, directed that the search operations should be continued unhindered till further orders, they added.

The AN-32 aircraft of the 33 Squadron of the IAF based at Sulur in Coimbatore was on a scheduled courier sortie from Tambaram to Port Blair.

The aircraft departed Tambaram at 8.30 am with six crew members and 23 passengers. The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at Port Blair at 11.45 am.

The aircraft, however, did not make any contact with the Air Traffic Control of Port Blair and an overdue action was initiated.  The aircraft made the last contact with Chennai Air Traffic Radar when it was flying at an altitude of 23,000 feet at 151 nautical miles east of Chennai.

Officials said that the IAF had deployed two C130J aircraft equipped with Electro-optical and Infra-Red sensors to look for the missing aircraft.