Chennai: There was no chance of the Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 plane that went missing on Friday morning getting lost in a cyclone over the Bay of Bengal, weather department officials said on Saturday.
“The weather was as usual. There was no low pressure or cyclone over Bay of Bengal. It is the South-West monsoon season,” weather department officials here told IANS.
The AN-32 aircraft with 29 people on board took off from Tambaram Air Force Station near here on Friday morning around 8.30 a.m. It was expected to land at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 11.30 a.m.
The last voice contact between the aircraft pilot and the air traffic control tower was at around 16 minutes into the flight and the aircraft soon vanished from the radar screen.
Those on board comprised six crew members, 15 personnel from the IAF, army, navy and Coast Guard, and eight civilians who were family members of the personnel.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who arrived here in the morning is overseeing the search operations undertaken by the Indian Navy, IAF and the Coast Guard.
According to officials there were no sightings of any plane debris floating in the sea.
“Planes are designed to fly even during an emergency. There will be reaction time to the pilots facing an emergency to send out messages for help or turn towards safety,” an Indian defence forces pilot told IANS.
According to the pilot, an AN-32 aircraft will not drop down like a stone or vanish into thin air in the case of normal emergency, as there will be reaction time.
“But in the case of a catastrophic threat, the pilots will not have the necessary reaction time,” he said.
An aircraft will not always be on the radar, he noted.
On the probable cause of the aircraft vanishing suddenly, he said: “The possibilities of different catastrophic events happening in the sky cannot be ruled out.”
“For example if an aircraft is caught in a strong thunderstorm, then a plane is as good as a paper caught in the storm. The storm will throw the plane like a stone,” he said.
The other catastrophic events that can happen to a plane were sudden failure of all the engines, a devastating fire, fuel leakage, jamming of flight controls, loss of flight controls due to fire, power and electrical failure among others.
He said in the best case scenario if the AN-32 had come down gradually then it would have been picked up by some radar or the pilots would have the time to react.
Normally a plane is fuelled taking into account the emergency deviations that may arise – the need to return to the airport from where it took off or to some other nearby airport in case of an emergency, he added.
The incident comes a year after a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft with three crew members on board for a routine surveillance flight went missing.
The search team found its black box nearly a month later. The skeletal remains and personal belongings of the crew members were recovered from the seabed off the Tamil Nadu coast.