Agencies / Chennai
There was no sighting yet of any aircraft debris more than 24 hours after an Indian Air Force plane with 29 people on board went missing over the Bay of Bengal, a coastguard official said yesterday.
The AN-32 military transport plane was on a routine flight from Tambaram IAF station in Chennai to Port Blair, capital of the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, on Friday morning when it vanished from radar screens.
Twenty-one of the passengers on board were defence personnel, including six crew members, while eight others worked for the military in non-uniform roles, an IAF source said.
On its official Twitter account the Indian navy said 18 navy and coastguard ships were now deployed in the search operation, along with six aircraft and a submarine.
“#SAROps 18 Naval & ICG ships (+1sm) deployed with various aircraft to locate missing AN 32,” the navy tweeted.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar travelled to Tambaram yesterday morning, where he was briefed by military officials before departing for an aerial survey to monitor the ongoing operation.
“It lost contact with the radars approximately 150 nautical miles east of Chennai,” IAF Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.
“There was no emergency communication message received from the plane. There is nothing to suggest what exactly happened,” Banerjee said.
Several reports said weather in the Bay of Bengal had been rough owing to the southwest monsoon.
An IAF source said on Friday radar data from the missing aircraft showed it making a sharp left turn before rapidly losing altitude.
Only a catastrophic accident in a “no talk/radio zone” or “dead zone” could destroy an aircraft suddenly, an experienced pilot with the defence forces said.
The Indian space agency said it will use its Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT) that can see through the clouds to locate the plane.
“We will be using RISAT to locate the missing aircraft. The satellite can take pictures both during the day and night. It can see through the clouds,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A S Kiran Kumar said.
He said the ISRO’s satellites could be tilted to some extent to look at a different place in times of need. The RISAT’s active microwave remote sensing provides cloud penetration and day-night imaging capability.
According to Kiran Kumar, ISRO is in the process of looking into the data of satellites that can throw some light on the missing plane.
He said the search and rescue beacon signal from the IAF plane was not picked by the ISRO satellites.
“Aircraft with search and rescue beacons should also have a transmitter to transmit the signals for the satellites to pick up,” he said.
Meanwhile Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu met family members of some employees of the Naval Armament Depot (NAD) who were aboard the plane.
Naidu visited the homes of N Chinna Rao and P Nagendra Rao, and comforted their family members.
The chief minister told them that the defence authorities were making all efforts to trace the aircraft.
Eight employees of NAD in Visakhapatnam were among the 29 people aboard the aircraft.
The NAD technicians were going to Port Blair to carry out repair and maintenance work of Close Range Naval (CRN-91) gun on board INS Battimalv.
The chief minister said he spoke to Parrikar and Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, who informed him that the efforts to trace the aircraft had been intensified.
“It’s a very unfortunate incident. Efforts are being made to trace the plane. Once we get some information, we will share the same with their families,” he told reporters.
Naidu assured the families that the government would stand by them in these difficult times and would extend all possible assistance.
“We will decide once we get some information,” he said when asked about the help to be given to the families of NAD employees.
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