Search for missing AN-32 goes on, IAF chief calls loss ‘unfortunate’

Chennai/New Delhi, July 25
No traces of the Indian Air Force’s missing AN-32 were found on Monday, the fourth day after it went missing, with officials saying the search has more difficult due to the fact that there was no signal from the emergency locator of the aircraft.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha called it “unfortunate” adding that a detailed probe will be done in the incident.A

Coast Guard Region (East) Commander, Inspector General Rajan Bargotra told reporters in Chennai that the absence of signal from the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) of the plane has made the search difficult, a point that was corroborated by officials from ISRO who said their satellites did not pick any signals.

“There are no signals from the ELT of the ill-fated plane. Similarly the ELT of the Coast Guard’s Dornier aircraft which went down into the Bay of Bengal last year did not emit out any signals,” Bargotra said.

“It is a serious concern and the matter will be taken up with the aircraft manufacturers,” he said.

An experienced pilot in Indian defence forces told IANS that maintenance of this equipment is an issue.

The aircraft with 29 people onboard went off the radar on July 22nd morning over the Bay of Bengal half an hour after take off from Chennai on its journey to Port Blair.

To a query, Bargotra said the search for the missing plane will continue even it is is going to be a prolonged one.

“We have requested the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) for their vessel for the search operations,” he added.

Bargotra also said the search would continue underwater if no debris is found on the sea surface.

Sources said satellites had picked some pointers and the area indicated was being searched, but no debris or signals from the aircraft could be spotted.

Indigenous satellites are constantly scanning the waters for any sign of the aircraft, sources added.

In an emotional message meanwhile, Raha called the event a “painful reminder” of the inherent risks personnel face in the execution of their daily missions.

“It is very unfortunate that we have not been able to trace the missing aircraft and the personnel on board. It is a very difficult moment for all of us and we share the concerns of the distraught family members,” he said in a statement.

“IAF authorities are in constant touch with the family members of the missing personnel and they are being regularly updated about the efforts being made to trace the missing aircraft and personnel… Events like these are painful reminders of the inherent risks which our brave personnel face in the execution of our daily missions.

“A thorough inquiry will be conducted to ascertain exactly what led to this unfortunate event. The IAF remains committed to provide the best possible equipment and training to our personnel so that they can execute their assigned missions professionally,” he said.

Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, meanwhile, said a total 250 hours of sorties have been flown in search of the plane, and all leads found are being followed.

“The coordinated efforts between Indian Navy, IAF (Indian Air Force) and Coast Guard is continuing. All together 17 ships and 17-18 aircraft are searching designated areas. Over 250 hours of sorties have been flown,” he said.

“We have got inputs from satellite images and also from sensors of the aircraft. All leads have been followed. It is an ongoing search at the moment,” he said.

The navy has pressed a flotilla of vessels including a submarine to locate the missing aircraft.

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 at 11.30 a.m.

The recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar showed the last pickup of the aircraft was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai when it was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet.


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