More than 12 Navy and Coast Guard ships are looking for the aircraft in the Bay of Bengal. A submarine has also been diverted to the area. The aircraft, which had six crew members and eight civilians or family members, may have plunged from an altitude of 23,000 feet, said an officer.
The plane left the Tambaram air base near Chennai at 8.30 am for Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands. It was to have landed around 11.45 am.”It was found missing. As of now, we will term it as overdue,” said Navy spokesperson DK Sharma, in the afternoon.
It was a courier flight taking mostly service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base. The last call from the aircraft was around 16 minutes after take-off, when the pilot reported that “everything is normal.”
The plane fell off the radar at 9.12 am, 280 km east of Chennai. There were 11 air force personnel, two army and one navy personnel and a Coast Guard member on board.
The plane has an emergency beacon locator, which usually gets activated if there is a crash. The navy submarine has been sent to track any underwater transmission from the locator.
There are more than 100 Russian-made AN-32s in service with the IAF. It is an aircraft that can fly for up to four hours without refueling and operate in all weather conditions.
“These aircraft are very strong, they are used as supply planes for mountains and deserts,” said retired Air Force officer Praful Bakshi.