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Missing AN-32 hit by snag thrice in July

While the search for the missing Antonov 32, the transport carrier of Indian Air Force (IAF), continued into the second day on Saturday, some crucial information about the flight had come out which revealed that the missing aircraft had been used by the IAF despite it developing frequent technical snags.

Missing AN-32 hit by snag thrice in July
Defence Minister being briefed about the search operations for IAF?s AN-32 at INS Rajali


An internal communication showed that the aircraft had developed three technical snags in the month of July alone. As per the communication, the aircraft had reported ‘throttle movement sluggish’ on July 2. On July 7, a ‘hydraulic leak from port wing root’ was detected and finally on July 14, pressure leak from port door was found. 

Highly placed sources told that the supply of spares for AN 32s, a three-decade old fleet with the IAF, has been a problem and the force would have to replace these workhorses if flying has to be made safer.

The details regarding the technical snags have been listed out by the Chief of Air Staff to Raksha Manthri (Defence Minister). The communique also confirmed that the last blip seen by the controller was at 9.12 am. 

The communique said the present aircraft was overhauled and upgraded at 1 Base Repair Depot (BRD) at Kanpur on September 2015 and had flown 279 hours till it went missing. The communique also said that “as per recorded transcript of Chennai air traffic radar (received at 1 pm) last pick up of the flight was on 099deg/151 nm due East of Chennai, when the aircraft was observed to have carried out a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 ft. 

When contacted Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee, PRO of the IAF, said that the snags reported were not serious. “They are common with any flight and is part of our routine checks. Any snag reported will be attended immediately and the pilots make sure the safety by test flights,” he said. Sources told the missing aircraft (call sign AF 330) belonging to the 33 Squadron (Sulur) had been carrying out regular sorties. 

As per records, the mid-life upgrade and life extension of AN 32s, which were inducted to IAF in 1984, began in 2010 and 40 upgraded aircraft returned to India from Kiev between 2011 and 15, as per a $400 million pact sign between Indian and Ukraine. In addition to this, 10 more aircraft were upgraded at 1 BRD, Kanpur, and the missing aircraft belonged to the last batch. 

Its usual routes are Coimbatore-Chennai Tambaram- Port Blair–Car Nicobar. The aircraft was on its routine courier sortie with Captain Flight Lieutenant Badsara as captain. Flying Officer Nandal was the co-pilot and Flight Lieutenant Kunal was the navigator and Junior Warrant Officer Ranjan was the engineer. 

Meanwhile, Marine police from Ramanathapuram and Thoothukudi continued their search for the IAF plane for the second day on Saturday. Ponraj, SI of Marine Police in Thoothukudi, said that their unit had deployed two boats for the operation — 1210, a larger variant, and 510, a smaller variant. “Around 13 personnel are checking all regions in their limit round-the clock,” he said.

Sick & Treated:
  • On July 2, the aircraft had reported ‘Throttle movement sluggish’ 
  • On July 7, the carrier reported hydraulic leak from Port Wing Root 
  • On July 14, it reported pressure leak from Port Door 
  • ISRO has come forward to assist in the search operation and will use Radar Imaging Satellite to trace the missing aircraft

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