An Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 transport plane which took off from Chennai on Friday morning, carrying 29 people, mostly military personnel, has gone missing.
According to NDTV, a massive search operation has been launched by the air force, Navy and Coast Guard in the Bay of Bengal. There was a rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet, officials said.
The plane, which reportedly also had six crew members and eight family members, 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 11.20 am.
The last call from the aircraft was around 16 minutes after take-off, an official said, when the pilot reported that“everything is normal.”
“It was found missing. As of now, we will term it as overdue,” said Navy spokesperson DK Sharma.
The plane fell off the radar at 9.12 am, 280 km east of Chennai.
It was a courier flight taking mostly service personnel to the strategic islands near the Malacca Straits, where India has a military base.
The plane has an emergency beacon locator, which usually gets activated if there is a crash.
The Navy has sent five surveillance aircraft, including a Dornier, and 13 ships to the region at full speed. The ships are Sahyadri, Rajput, Ranvijay, Kamorta, Kirch, Karmuk, Kora, Kuthar, Shakti, Jyoti, Ghariyal and Sukanya.
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.