The wreckage of the AN-32 transport aircraft belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which disappeared eight days ago with 13 Air Force persons on board, was sighted at an altitude of 12,000 feet in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh by an Mi-17 helicopter on Tuesday afternoon.
Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh, IAF spokesperson from the Eastern Command, Shillong, said efforts were on to find out the status of those who had boarded the aircraft.
“The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today 16 kms North of Lipo, Northeast of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12,000 feet by the IAF Mi-17 helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone.
Efforts are now continuing to establish the status of occupants and establish survivors. We will use all our resources to reach the site.
The persons who were engaged to search the aircraft will try to reach there. But it is going to be be tough as the area is in thick jungle,” Singh said in a statement.
Singh also said that mountaineering teams of IAF, army and civilians would be taken on a helicopter tomorrow to look for those who boarded the AN-32.
The aircraft took off at 12.27pm on June 3 from Jorhat air force station in eastern Assam with eight crewmen and five other IAF personnel for Mechuka, close to China border in Arunachal Pradesh. But it lost control with the ground agencies around 1 pm over Along, the headquarters of West Siang district.
The IAF deployed services of four Mi-17, three ALH, two Su-30 MKI, one C-130, two Cheetah helicopters, one Army UAV and Pi8, a maritime reconnaissance aircraft of Indian Navy to carry out the search. Bad weather and low clouds, however, affected the search from the air.
Teams of local residents were also sent to remote locations in the jungles to search the possible wreckage of the aircraft but they too have remained clueless.
IAF announced a bounty of Rs. 5 lakh for any information regarding whereabouts of the missing plane. West Siang district administration also announced cash reward of Rs. 50,000 for the same.
The AN32 is used to carry materials for both defence persons as well as civilians living in remote areas like Mechuka, situated atop 6,000 feet. The aircraft was headed for IAF’s advanced landing ground at Mechuka, which is about 30-km away from China border.