After locating what has been reportedly confirmed as the debris of the missing IAF's courier flight AN-32, search operations have been intensified in the said area. In a major breakthrough in the case of the missing flight, domestic research vessel Samudra Ratnakar, in its geological survey, had found debris, what was initially suspected and later appeared to be that of AN-32. The search team onboard the vessel found the debris at a depth of about 3.5 kilometres from the sea bed.
The eight member team has been on the lookout for the flight right from 8 August, and have covered almost 4,509 square kilometres until now. The search operation will continue on till 7 September, say sources. Following this, the search in these areas has been intensified to locate the remaining parts of the aircraft.
Indian Air force's courier flight AN-32 with 29 people on board which took off from Tambaram at 8.30 am on 22 July for Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was declared missing after it lost radar contact at around 8.45 am, 280 kilometre east of Chennai. Its estimated time of arrival at Port Blair was 11.30 am.
The aircraft had six crew members, nine navy personnel including eight naval civilians, 11 Air Force personnel including one officer, four airmen, five non-combatants, one personnel of the Defense Service Corps, one below officer rank, two army recruits, and one coast guard.
Sources say, that the team will once again re-visit the scanned spots to find if there are any other aircraft parts which can be identified. This is the first suspected sign that the missing aircraft had indeed crashed into the sea. Samudra Ratnakar is equipped with multi-beam echosounder, profiler and a side scan sonar. The vessel was assigned to search 16,000 sqaure kilometre of sea, 270 km off the Chennai coast.
The Central government had also assigned another vessel, Sagar Nidhi belonging to National Institute of Ocean Technology for the search operations. Also, it may be noted that the debris might not be that of the flight, as such kind of rubble can also be generated by movement of tectonic plates due to volcanic activity in the sea bed. The search area which falls under the exclusive economic zone was earlier mapped in 1990.