Chennai: More than 48 hours since an Air Force’s AN-32 transport plane with 29 people on board went off the radars near Chennai on Friday, no traces could be obtained to its location.
The plane left the Tambaram air base near Chennai at 8.30 am on Friday and was to have landed at Port Blair around 11.45 am. It fell off the radar at 9.12 am, 280 km east of Chennai. It made the last radio contact at 8:46 am, 16 minutes after take-off, when the pilot reported that “everything is normal”.
As many as 18 Navy and Coast Guard ships including a submarine, and eight aircraft like P 81, C 130 and Dorniers are involved in a massive search operation in the Bay of Bengal, about 150 nautical miles east of Chennai, where inclement weather appeared to be a hurdle.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was in Chennai yesterday, undertook a two-hour aerial survey of the area of operation. He instructed that more resources could be diverted for the purpose if necessary.
The sea is very rough and there is thick cloud cover in the area, sources said, adding he has directed all Commanders to be in touch with families and provide them information that may be required, they said.
The aircraft, which had six crew members and eight civilians (family members), may have plunged rapidly from an altitude of 23,000 feet, said an officer.
The Indian space agency will be using its Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT) that can see through the clouds to locate the missing plane, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman AS Kiran Kumar told IANS.
Meanwhile, family members of those on board were eagerly waiting for news about the aircraft.
The son of one of the men on board the missing plane has a message for fellow Indians.
“I want to request all my fellow Indians to pray for my father and all people on board. I feel my father is safe. I want all of you to pray they all come back unharmed,” said Ashutosh Singh, son of Bhupath Singh, who was on the missing AN-32 aircraft.
There are more than 100 Russian-made AN-32s in service with the IAF. It is an aircraft that can fly for up to four hours without refueling and can operate in all weather conditions.