The Indian Air Force on June 13 declared the 13 air warriors and passengers of the missing AN-32 dead. The IAF condoled their demise and said that the force stood by their families.
The AN-32, with 13 people on board, eight crew members and five armed forces personnel, the aircraft lost contact with the ground forces before it went off radar on June 3 and subsequently crashed, after it took off from Jorhat Air Force Station for Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh.
Those who lost their lives in the crash include: Wing Commander GM Charles, Second Lieutenant H Vinod, Flight Lieutenant R Thapa, Flight Lieutenant A Tanwar, Flight Lieutenant S Mohanty, Flight Lieutenant MK Garg, Warrant Officer KK Mishra, Sergeant Anoop Kumar, Corporal Sherin, Leading Aircraftman SK Singh, Leading Aircraftman Pankaj, Non Combatant Putali and Non Combatant Rajesh Kumar.
The Rescue Operation
A rescue operation began immediately after the news of the missing aircraft surfaced.
The IAF pressed Sukhoi-30 combat aircraft and C-130 special operation aircraft into action for the rescue mission. It also sent ground troops to identify the aircraft and people on board.
Eight days later, the IAF confirmed the crash.
A MI-17 helicopter identified the wreckage of the AN-32 aircraft on Tuesday, June 11, but could not land at the crash site due to bad weather and rough terrain. As many as 15 mountaineers, including two Everesters, were airlifted on June 12 landed 16 kilometres north of Lipo in Arunachal Pradesh to identify the remains.
Air Force Officials told the media that the disturbance in the view due to clouds could have been the possible reason behind the crash of AN-32 transport aircraft. Images of the crash site show that the aircraft made an effort to climb over the mountain top but could not.
Family Awaits Mortal Remains
The families of the 13 personnel on board the ill-fated transport aircraft were informed and the IAF tweeted to pay respect to the ‘air warriors’.
“We haven’t been given any bodies or remains of my brother in law. It is difficult for us to believe that those 13 people onboard are no more. The government and the forces are at fault for using the outdated and old aircraft without any facility to escape,” Sushil Solanki, brother-in-law of Flt Lt Ashish Tanwar, one of the pilots on board told The Logical Indian.
Ashwani Garg, brother of Flt Lt Mohit Kumar Garg told The Logical Indian, “we are extremely disappointed with the fact that the aircraft was old and did not have any provision for ejection”.
As the IAF was unable to get any information about the missing personnel on the aircraft, Mother of Flt Lt Ashish Tanwar told the media. She had strong hopes of seeing her son come back home.
Not the First Instance
The IAF has been plagued with several instances of crashes and missing planes over the years.
In 1986, an IAF AN-32 disappeared over the Arabian Sea on a delivery flight from the Soviet Union via Oman. No trace was found of the aircraft or the people on board.
Four years later, in 1990, another AN-32 aircraft crashed in the Ponmudi mountain range on its way to Thiruvananthapuram from Tambaram Air Force Station, Chennai.
The AN-32 is a twin-engined military aircraft that was introduced to operate as a transport plane in the Indian Air Force for its well-known capacity to handle rough weather. From the heights of Siachen Glacier to North East, the aircraft has been the vehicle for military transportation.
However, the old aircraft has been in service for far too long and requires overhaul and re-equipment.