A Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard that went missing with a three-member crew on board off the coast of Tamil Nadu more than a month ago has been located under water, officials said on Friday.
The Dornier was located at a depth of 996 metres and 16.5 nautical miles off Pichavaram in Cuddalore district, Coast Guard IG, SP Sharma said.
Its black box or flight data recorder (FDR) has been recovered and will be analysed to ascertain what had happened to the aircraft, he said.
Indian warships and planes had mounted a massive search operation for the Dornier after it went missing on June 8 several hours after taking off from Chennai airport for a surveillance sortie.
Its crew comprised two pilots and a navigator. Though there was no official word from the Coast Guard, it had been feared that none of the crew had survived.
Signals from the missing aircraft were first picked up by the submarine INS Sindhudhvaj and conveyed to the Reliance vessel MV Olympic Canyon.
MV Olympic Canyon, a multifunctional support vessel, then recovered the FDR and a line replacement unit (LRU). The Coast Guard said it is the first salvage operation at that depth.
The missing Dornier, CG 791, was a new aircraft inducted in the Coast Guard in 2014 and was being flown by a highly experienced crew --commandant Vidyasagar piloting the aircraft, his co-pilot and deputy commandant Subash Suresh and navigator/observer MK Soni.
This was the second incident this year involving a Dornier aircraft of the armed forces. In March, two crew members of a Dornier of the navy were killed when it crashed off the Goa coast. Lieutenant Kiran Shekhawat, one of the two people killed in the crash, was the first woman officer of the armed forces to die in the line of duty.
Dorniers cannot fly above 10,000 feet and are mainly used for low altitude maritime surveillance. While the aircraft has parachutes and other life-saving gear, the low altitude at which the plane was flying could make an escape challenging, officials said.