IAF transport plane feared to have crashed (Second Lead)

June 10th, 2009 - 1:10 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 9 (IANS) A twin-engine Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 cargo aircraft with 12 defence personnel on board went missing Tuesday afternoon soon after it took off from a forward air base in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China, and is feared to have crashed, an official said.
While the IAF has declared the plane to be “missing”, no contact with it had been established till 11 p.m., nine hours after it disappeared from the radar screens, and it is feared to have crashed, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because if there are casualties, defence ministry procedures require that the families be first informed before the names are made public.

A search that had been mounted for the aircraft had to be called off due to fading light and would be resumed only Wednesday morning, IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ranjit Sahu told IANS here.

He said the plane went missing around 2 p.m. after it took off from Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district, bordering China’s Tibet region.

“The aircraft went missing soon after it took off from Mechuka and there is no trace so far. The plane was carrying 12 defence personnel, including two pilots,” Sahu said.

“The plane was returning from a routine air maintenance mission and went missing, apparently due to bad weather,” Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, the defence ministry’s chief public relations officer for the eastern region, told IANS on the telephone from Kolkata.

The aircraft, which had originally taken off from Jorhat at around 1 p.m., was on its way back from Mechuka to Mohanbari in Assam, Upasani said.

Two pilots, a navigator, three air crew and six army personnel were on board the aircraft, he added.

“IAF helicopters conducted a search operation in the entire stretch but failed to trace the missing aircraft. Search operations would resume Wednesday morning and we don’t know about the fate of the aircraft and those on board,” Sahu said.

The AN-32 is the workhorse of the IAF transport fleet, traveling to far off bases to deliver much-needed supplies to soldiers.

“The aircraft took off from Mechuka that has an advanced landing ground facility after delivering essentials and other supplies to the soldiers. Contact with it was lost soon after,” Sahu said.

This is the first crash of an AN-32 in about a decade.

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