On July 22, Indian Air force’s AN-32 disappeared with 29 members on board. AN-32 was supposed to complete the journey from Chennai to Port Blair of Andaman. It started the journey at 8.30 hrs and was scheduled to arrive at Port Blair at 11.30 hrs but AN-32’s contact to the radar lost at 9.00 hrs.
The search operation for AN-32 was started with 13 Navy and 4 coast guard ships. With more than two months gone, Indian Air Force officials have announced that all 29 members on board can be presumed dead. Search for AN-32 will still continue according to some sources. At present two government ships have narrowed down the search where the ruins of AN-32 can possibly be found.
Last year, a Coast Guard aircraft with three members onboard disappeared during its flight over the Bay of Bengal. Its debris were found 33 days later at a depth of 950 meters below the sea around 95 nautical miles south of Chennai. It is a matter of great concern, as our country has managed to lose two cargo ships in last 2 years.
Mohan Ranganathan is an Aviation Safety consultant, former instructor pilot of Boeing 737 Specializing in Wet runway operations training. In an interview given to a media organization, Ranganathan highlighted some flaws in the Indian Air Force system that are yet to be solved to avoid these fatal accidents.
Here’s Ranganathan’s theory on what went wrong with AN-32 and how these incidents should be handled.
AN-32 was overloaded
It doesn’t take 157 miles for an aircraft to reach 20,000 feet. The main reason behind this was the high number of members onboard. AN-32 is a supply flight for taking groceries and vegetables, which are quite likely considered to be heavy. 29 members were onboard with their baggage and if we count hundred kilograms per person, that means the plane was carrying an additional load of 3 tones, which is obviously considered as overloaded. Due to the turbulent weather and overloaded plane, the pilot could have lost control. Overloaded flights are very difficult to control and the turbulent weather makes it worse.
Do we have the proper equipment for the search of missing planes?
AN-32 did not have a locator beacon which is mandatory for all the air-crafts. Authorities say they are fitting these beacons for the new air-crafts then why not do it in the first place? It doesn’t make any sense waiting to react on safety additions till a fatal accident occurs. Both Air Force and navy authorities say they have high class surveillance equipment but then why is it taking months to search their own aircraft? Two accidents out of Chennai prove that the rescue facilities are poor. It raises questions like: How will they find a civilian plane if it crashes in the sea? Defense preparedness also comes under the line of doubts, if somebody comes with a deep sea submarine or some other vehicle how will they detect them?
Is it the poor weather to blame for the accident?
It was monsoon season when the accident occurred but the question is about training to fly in monsoon weather. Both air-crafts disappeared in poor weather conditions.
Malaysian airlines aircraft received a lot of media attention. Why not this?
When an airliner crashes there is a lot of media attention but when a military plane crashes there is very little attention. Air Force authorities never reveal much information therefore speculation comes into play
It has been a lot of time since the AN-32 accident but the families of the members on board will never forgive this. Therefore this issue is as important as any terrorist attack in the country.