Search on for missing IAF cargo plane (Lead)

June 10th, 2009 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 10 (IANS) Police Wednesday began a massive search operation to locate the Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 transport aircraft that went missing Tuesday in the mountainous northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh after two helicopters called off their search due to bad weather, officials said.
The cargo plane with 12 defence personnel on board went missing midair Tuesday afternoon after it took from Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China’s Tibet region.

“Villagers of Palegaon reported sighting a huge ball of fire Tuesday in the sky and they believe it could be the aircraft crashing into a hill,” Arunachal Pradesh police chief Ajay Chaddha said over telephone.

Police teams have since begun a foot march to the location that is about 70 km from Mechuka from where the aircraft took off at around 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“It would take time to reach the reported location as the area is remote and inaccessible,” the police chief said.

Two IAF helicopters that carried out a search operation in the area had to call off their mission following bad weather.

“We are yet to get any clue or spot the wreckage of the aircraft so far,” an IAF official said.

The AN-32 aircraft was on its way back to its base in Jorhat in eastern Assam from Mechuka, a military forward position located in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district, bordering China, after delivering essentials and other supplies to the soldiers.

There were eight army soldiers and four IAF personnel, including the two pilots, on board the AN-32.

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

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