IAF transport plane missing, crash feared (Lead, Changing dateline)

June 10th, 2009 - 12:23 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 after it took off from a forward air base in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China, officials said.
While the IAF has declared the plane to be “missing”, no contact with it had been established with it till 10 p.m., eight hours after it went missing off the radar screens, and it is feared to have crashed, other officials said.

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, the officials said.

An IAF spokesperson here 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,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ranjit Sahu told IANS.

“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 chief public officer for the eastern region, told IANS on the telephone from Kolkata.

The aircraft, which had taken off from Jorhat at around 1 p.m., was on its way back from

Mechuka to Mohanbari in Assam, Upasani said.

There were a total of 12 people on board - two pilots, a navigator, three air crew and six army personnel, 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.

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