The Indian Air Force on Tuesday said that search teams have spotted the wreckage of the AN-32 transport aircraft in Arunachal Pradesh eight days after it went missing with 13 people on board, shortly after take-off from Jorhat in Assam.
“The wreckage of the aircraft was spotted today, 16 km North of Lipo, North East of Tato at an approximate elevation of 12000 ft by the IAF Mi-17 Helicopter undertaking search in the expanded search zone,” the Air Force said in a statement.
There is no news yet on the 13 people, including eight crew members, on board the aircraft. The IAF said the effort now was to establish the “status of occupants and survivors”.
According to an IAF official, the wreckage was spotted between 1 and 2 pm. The flight which was bound for an advanced landing ground at Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh went missing around 1 pm on June 3.
The disappearance of the Soviet-origin aircraft led to a massive aerial search operation involving helicopters, Sukhois, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, navy’s P-81 aircraft and night missions by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Sensors belonging to the technical intelligence gathering agency, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), were also put to use.
Ground search teams involved about 1500 soldiers besides policemen, local villagers and hunters.
On Saturday, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had arrived in Jorhat to take stock of the operations and to meet the families of the missing men.
An AN-32 can carry up to 40 men. The IAF operates around 100 AN-32s inducted in the early 1980s.
Ahead of the latest crash, the AN-32’s safety record has been blemished by two fatal crashes over the last decade. In July 2016, an AN-32 went down in the Bay of Bengal with 29 people on board. Neither the aircraft nor its wreckage was found. A decade ago, an AN-32 crashed in West Siang of Arunachal Pradesh killing all 13 men on board. The wreckage of that plane was spotted by a search team at over 12,000ft above sea level, more than 24 hours after it went down.