Missing IAF flight AN-32 found? GSI vessel finds possible debris off Chennai coast

A Geological Survey of India (GSI) ship may have stumbled upon possible debris of the missing IAF flight AN-32 in deep-sea, reports said on Monday.

The Hindu reported that oceanographic research vessel, RV Samudra Ratnakar, found "linear pieces over a 4,500-sq km area underwater." The RV Samudra Ratnakar was deployed to locate the missing AN-32. However, the report also added that there was no clarity if the pieces belonged to the missing aircraft. Defence authorities on Sunday said that the debris was located 160 nautical miles off Chennai coast.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, senior Coast Guard official told Deccan Herald, "We suspect that the objects might be the parts of AN-32 aircraft, which might have crashed in the sea."

 Missing IAF flight AN-32 found? GSI vessel finds possible debris off Chennai coast

A file photo of IAF aircraft AN-32. PTI

Speaking to The Hindu, deputy director general of Geological Survey of India, S Raju said, "We got a report that at 14 places, linear pieces were found. We are not sure if the parts are from the aircraft. These could be rocks, plate movement, or volcanic activity, as these are at a depth of over 3,000 metres."

The ill-fated AN-32 had taken off on a routine courier flight to Port Blair from Tambaram air base near Chennai on 22 July at 8.30 am with six crew and 23 personnel, but never arrived at the destination. It was last seen on the radars at 9 am. The missing AN-32 aircraft, which had flown multiple times over the Bay of Bengal carrying military personnel and equipment, did not have an underwater locator system, making it difficult for rescuers to pinpoint the position of the plane.

In fact, none of the upgraded AN-32 aircrafts, the main workhorse of the military, has an underwater locator, unlike the modern transport planes like C130J or C17, PTI had reported.

The missing aircraft came with two Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) – a stationary ARTEX C406-1 ELT manufactured by ACR Electronics/Artex Products, the US, and a French-made portable KANNAD 406AS ELT manufactured by Orolia. In an emergency, the pilot has to activate the ELT beacon manually. The integrated ELT gets activated when the impact is about 2.3 G or 4.5 feet per second.

However, ELT would not get activated automatically since radio waves are not transmitted in the water. There is no signal from ELT under water for this reason, IAF sources said. The sources said trials were already on to procure underwater ELTs for the aircraft and, as an emergency measure, effort is to have some kind of an underwater ELT on any aircraft that flies over water. Also, the AN-32 aircraft does not have the Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast. This system relies on navigational satellites to automatically transmit an aircraft's journey in real time and it can be switched on and off based on operational needs.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said overdue action, as per the Standard Operating Procedures, started at 12.30 hours, one hour after the scheduled arrival at Port Blair and nearly three-and-a-half hours after the plane went out of ground radar cover area. It was only at 1225 hours that Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre, Chennai reported that an IAF AN-32 (AF-330) was not in contact. The weather at the time when the plane went missing was overcast with multi-layered clouds and embedded convection. The pilot had asked for deviation to the right to avoid a thundershower cloud before disappearing.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 22, 2016 10:18:17 IST