ITANAGAR/JORHAT/SHILLONG/GUWAHATI: A Russian origin An-32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with 13 people on board went missing in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday after taking off from Assam, an IAF official said.
The transport aircraft was flying from the 43 squadron (in Jorhat) to the Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground. Mechuka is a small town in Arunachal’s West Siang district bordering China.
IAF officials in the Jorhat station said that in the aircraft there were the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, co-navigator, two crew members and five personnel from the Indian Army para-troopers.
“An An-32 aircraft of IAF got airborne today from Jorhat at 12.25 (p.m.)... The aircraft lost contact with ground agencies at 1 (pm). Thereafter there has been no contact,” an IAF official said.
“Since the aircraft did not reach the airfield, action was initiated by the IAF. All available resources have been employed to locate the plane,” he said.
The Army, the Indo Tibetan Border Police and Arunachal Pradesh Police are trying to locate the missing plane, officials said.
Inputs from Shillong added that some ground reports were received on possible location of a crash site. The IAF deployed C130 transporters and helicopters on the Mechuka-Jorhat route to locate the An-32. Though helicopters were routed to the location, however, no wreckage has been sighted so far. IAF is coordinating with Indian Army as well as various government and civil agencies to locate the missing aircraft. The search operations from air and by ground parties of the Indian Army are planned to continue throughout the night.
Guwahati-based Defence Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. P Khongsai said that efforts were on to trace the missing aircraft.
In New Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted: “Spoke to Vice Chief of IAF-MCC, Air Marshal Rakesh Singh Bhadauria, regarding the missing IAF An-32 Aircraft which is overdue for some hours. He has apprised me of the steps taken by the IAF to find the missing aircraft. I pray for the safety of all passengers on board,” the Minister said.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweeted: “Praying for safety of all 13 persons who were on board.”
The Deputy Commissioner of newly-created Shi Yomi district in Arunachal, Mito Dirchi, said there were some reports of a crash in the jungles of the district.
“We have sent a team for search which includes SP and some villagers. But we have not found any wreckage. We are going to search the areas tomorrow morning again.”
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom prevails in the campus of Indian Air Force campus, Jorhat as the ill-fated An-32 took off on a regular weather condition and had regular contacts for about an hour, said sources.
In 2009, another An-32 plane had crashed over Arunachal Pradesh with 13 people on board.
Also read: Arunachal news