Search on to locate missing IAF transport plane

June 10th, 2009 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 10 (IANS) The search was resumed early Wednesday to locate the twin-engine Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 transport aircraft with 12 defence personnel on board that went missing Tuesday soon after it took off from a forward air base in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China, an official said.
“Two Cheetah helicopters have been pressed into service to locate the missing plane. However, inclement weather is hampering the search operation. Search operations were carried out last (Tuesday) night using night vision devices but without any result,” a senior IAF official told IANS requesting anonymity.

The search mounted for the aircraft Tuesday had to be called off later due to fading light and was resumed only Wednesday morning.

While the IAF has declared the plane to be “missing”, no contact has been established with it nearly 24 hours after it disappeared from the radar scene and 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.

The plane went missing at around 2 p.m. Tuesday after it took off from Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district, bordering China’s Tibet region. The plane was carrying 12 defence personnel, including two pilots.

“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.

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

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

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