IAF plane with 29 aboard dis­ap­pears over Bay of Ben­gal

The Northlines - - FRONT PAGE - NL Cor­re­spon­dent

An Indian air force plane car­ry­ing 29 per­son­nel went miss­ing over the Bay of Ben­gal on its way from Chen­nai to the An­daman Ni­co­bar Is­lands on Fri­day, trig­ger­ing an ex­pan­sive search in­volv­ing he­li­copters, war­ships and a sub­ma­rine.

The Rus­sian-ori­gin Antonov-32 plane dis­ap­peared about 280 km off the coast of Chen­nai from where it had taken off at 8.30 am. It was due to ar­rive around mid­day at Port Blair -- about 1400km away -- which hosts In­dia's only tri-ser­vice com­mand. The plane was fly­ing 12 air force per­son­nel, one each from the army, navy and coast guard and eight civil­ians, some of them fam­ily mem­bers of sol­diers. It also had a crew of six. The medium-lift plane, up­graded last year, can fly for four hours and 15 min­utes without re­fu­elling. "The air­craft was ob­served to have car­ried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet," an Indian Air Force (IAF) of­fi­cial told Hin­dus­tan Times.

IAF of­fi­cials said the miss­ing plane made its last ra­dio con­tact at 8.46 am and it was last seen on the radar at 9.12 am. At least four planes, in­clud­ing two P-8I lon­grange mar­itime sur­veil­lance air­craft, he­li­copters and 13 war­ships are scour­ing the sea look­ing for the plane. "A sub­ma­rine has also been di­verted to the area for lo­cat­ing the trans­mis­sions from emer­gency lo­ca­tor bea­con on board the air­craft," a navy spokesper­son said.

The AN-32 has been in ser­vice with the IAF since 1984. There are 101 such planes in the air force's in­ven­tory. The one that has gone miss­ing was over­hauled and up­graded at the IAF'S 1 Base Re­pair De­pot in Kan­pur in Septem­ber.

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