Search for IAF aircraft reaches third day

5 local hunters engaged in search

[ Nellie N Manpoong ]

MECHUKA, Jun 5: The search operation for AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) entered its third day on Wednesday without any success, even as efforts to locate the missing aircraft intensify.
IAF sources Wednesday said additional assets, including two Sukhoi-30 aircrafts were deployed on the third day to locate the missing plane apart from the fleet of C-130J and AN-32 planes and two Mi-17 and two ALH helicopters.
Military sources said rescuers have not received any signal from the emergency locator beacon in the missing plane, adding there is a possibility that the device may not have been functional.
They said the plane that went missing is yet to be upgraded with latest avionics and radars, though some of the AN-32 were strengthened with advanced systems.
The Indian Navy’s P-8I aircraft was deployed on Tuesday as it has electro-optical and infra-red sensors which could be helpful in the search operation.
IAF officials said ISRO’s Cartosat and RISAT satellites are taking images of the area around Mechuka to help the rescuers find the plane.
They said the area has thick vegetation and difficult terrain which are making the rescue operation challenging.
In the meantime, the Siang district administration has engaged five local hunters to penetrate the deep jungles and treacherous terrain of the Bayor hills ranges, located in between Siang and Shi Yomi districts, in hopes of finding the possible wreckage of the AN-32.
Speaking to this daily, Siang Deputy Commissioner Rajeev Takuk informed: “The army and administrative heads of other districts must have also sent their men, but we cannot be worried about district boundaries at such a critical moment, and have sent these men from our side.”
“The hunters were sent-off from Payum circle in Shi Yomi district as it is closer to the Bayor range. Four people have been put into one group, while the other has gone alone,” he said, adding: “The lone hunter is likely to be joined by two assistants.”
He said that the hunters are likely to have reached the new suspected area of crash, Sikar peak, under the Bayor hills range.
Takuk said “the Bayor range is the usual route for aircrafts. However, on cloudy days, the Siyom River route is followed.”
“We are hopeful of receiving an update by Thursday evening or by Friday morning,” he added.
The IAF on Monday said the aircraft took off from Jorhat at 12.27 pm for the Mechuka advance landing ground, and its last contact with the ground control was at around 1 pm.
A total of eight aircrew and five passengers were on board the aircraft.
The AN-32 is a Russian origin aircraft and the IAF currently operates a sizeable number of it. It is a twin-engine turboprop transport aircraft.
An AN-32 aircraft had crashed near a village in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh in June 2009 in which 13 defence personnel were killed. (With PTI inputs)