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Wreckage of IAF's missing AN-32 plane found in Arunachal Pradesh

IAF Mi-17 helicopter today spotted the wreckage of the plane in Arunchal Pradesh.

Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 10.09 AM IST
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Wreckage of missing IAF AN-32 found in Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh
Wreckage of missing IAF AN-32 found in Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh
NEW DELHI: Eight days after an Indian Air Force AN-32 transport aircraft with 13 people on board disappeared during a flight, its wreckage was found in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Siang district on Tuesday, bringing the focus back on a 2009 crash of another AN-32 bearing eerie similarities.

An IAF AN-32 in June 9, 2009 had crashed near Tato in West Siang, which is near the location of the recent crash. The previous crash site would also have been around the same elevation as the present one, which is 12,000 feet. The 2009 aircraft was also transporting the same number of people when it had taken off from Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) — the place where the aircraft in the present incident was to land — and was headed to Assam’s Mohanbari Air Force Station when it disappeared.

The court of inquiry into the 2009 crash concluded that it was due to human error, as the pilots apparently got disoriented after entering some cloudsand then banged into a mountain. In the present crash, however, the IAF will try to retrieve the aircraft’s black box to ascertain what went wrong.

Mountaineering teams of the IAF, army and civilians are being formed and will be sent to the crash site by helicopters to look for survivors. The IAF is trying to determine the status of the 13 IAF personnel- eight crew members, including six officers, and five passengers. There is currently no effort to reach the site by road. An IAF Cheetah helicopter and the army’s Advanced Light Helicopter reached the crash site. Due to the high elevation and dense forest, helicopters could not land next to the crash site, IAF said. However, nearest landing site has been identified and the rescue operation by helicopters will commence on Wednesday morning. Ground forces will continue to reach the crash site during the night.

On Tuesday, an Mi-17 helicopter spotted the wreckage, 16 KMs North of Lipo in North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft, the air force said.

The AN-32 had lost radar contact in an area between Tato, Payum and Along in the afternoon of June 3. It had taken off from the Jorhat Air Force Station at 12.27 pm and was to land at the Mechuka at 1.25 pm, but didn’t contact ground crew after 1 pm. It is believed that the plane had moved away from its flight path.

The IAF had deployed its Mi-17 helicopters, Advanced Light Helicopters, C-130s and An-32 for the aerial search. The navy also pitched in with its P8i long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. On the ground, the search was conducted by teams of the army, ITBP and the local population. Resources from the Indian Space Research Organisation, including satellite imagery, were also used. The weather was a major impediment to the search.

A TRAGIC YEAR
A series of crashes and aircraft losses in the past year have come as a blow to the Air Force that is already reeling under the impact of below par budget allocation. Since June last year, 16 aircraft of all types – fighters, transporters and choppers – have been lost to various incidents.
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