No sightings of debris, search continues for missing IAF plane

Chennai: The search for the AN-32 aircraft with 29 people on board that went missing on Friday morning, continued on Saturday with no sightings of any debris in the Bay of Bengal, said an official of Indian Air Force (IAF). "The search is going on. If there is any substantial development it will be made known," Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee, Public Relations Officer for IAF told IANS over phone from New Delhi on Saturday. A Coast Guard official told IANS that there were no sightings of any aircraft debris in the Bay of Bengal by the search team. Meanwhile Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is expected to visit Chennai, said an official. Only a catastrophic accident in a "no talk/radio zone" or "dead zone" could destroy an aircraft suddenly, an experienced pilot with the Indian defence forces told IANS late Friday. Those on board comprised six crew members, 15 personnel from the IAF, army, navy and Coast Guard, and eight civilians who were family members of the personnel. The aircraft, an upgraded AN-32 belonging to 33 Squadron, took off from Tambaram Air Force Station in Chennai at 8.30 a.m., and was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 a.m., officials said, describing it as a "routine sortie". According to a report submitted to Parrikar by Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, according to the recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar, last pickup was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai, when the aircraft was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet. A massive search and rescue operation involving aircraft, helicopters, ships and a submarine was launched immediately to find the plane that went missing around 300 km off Chennai, and will continue through the night.