IAF plane goes missing over Bay of Bengal, 29 feared dead
Four officers including a woman, 17 other military personnel and eight civilians were feared killed when an Antonov-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force, on the way to Port Blair from Chennai, went missing over the Bay of Bengal on Friday morning.
A massive search and rescue operation was mounted by IAF , Navy and Coast Guard, with 16 warships and vessels as well as two Poseidon-8I, a C-130J Super Hercules and three Dornier aircraft dispat ched to the “probable crash zone“ to hunt for the missing AN-32 in the choppy seas.
The plane had reportedly developed at least three minor technical snags this month.
A Sindhughosh-class submarine was also diverted from an “ongoing mission“ to “seek underwater transmissions from the locator beacon of the aircraft“ but there was no trace of the ill-fated medium-lift aircraft till late in the evening.“The search will continue through the night,“ said an officer. The last radio contact with the AN-32 was at 8.46am, 16 minutes after it took off from the Tambaram airbase in Chennai on a “routine courier flight“ to Port Blair. The aircraft was apparently last spotted on radars around 9.15am, around 151 nautical miles around 151 nautical miles east of Chennai.
“The AN-32, which was slated to land at Port Blair at 11.30 am, was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from its flying altitude of 23,000ft.There was no Mayday call.The endurance of the aircraft was four hours and 15 minutes,“ said the officer.
The twin-engine AN-32, which was from the 33 Squadron at the Sulur airbase, had a six-member crew of two pilots (Flight Lieutenant Pushpendra Badsara and Flying Officer Pankaj Kumar Nanda), a navigator (Flight Lieutenant Kunal Barpatte), a flight engineer and two technicians.
The passengers on board, who were all headed for the Tri-Service Andaman and Nicobar Island Command, included a woman IAF officer, Flight Lieutenant Deepika Sheoran, who is married to a Coast Guard officer based in Port Blair.
The others included eight civilians from the naval armament depot in Vizag, five IAF non-combatants, four airmen, two Army soldiers, a defence security corps jawan and a sailor each from Navy and Coast Guard. The sturdy AN-32s have been IAF workhorses in ferrying troops and cargo to forward areas since they were first inducted in 1984.
Though they have a relatively good flight safety record, the AN-32s are certainly old despite their ongoing life-extension and upgrade refits.
The AN-32 that went missing had been upgraded at 1 Base Repair Depot in Kanpur last September, and had also suffered from at least three minor technical snags earlier this month.
anandabazar patrika epaper 23/07/2016 : http://www.anandabazar.com