The Coast Guard has said its search for the three crew members of the Dornier aircraft that was located a month after it went missing will continue though the chances of their survival are very slim.
The wreckage of the aircraft that went missing on June 8 was found 16.5 nautical miles off Pichavaram in Cuddalore district at a depth of 996 meters in the Bay of Bengal. The debris was recovered by the Olympic Canyon vessel of Reliance Industries.
Asked if the recovery of the debris meant the worst for the crew, Coast Guard inspector general SP Sharma told the media in Chennai: “For me they are still missing. But as per data, there are slim chances for them to survive the crash.”
Sharma said the search will not be concluded "without finding the crew".
The Dornier went missing on June 8 while on a surveillance flight along the Tamil Nadu coast. Its crew comprised deputy commandant Vidyasagar (pilot), deputy commandant Subash Suresh (co-pilot) and MK Soni (navigator).
The wreckage recovered so far includes the flight data recorder or black box, cockpit voice recorder, two engines, propellers, tail, tail cone, airframe parts, flotation vest, single line replacement unit and parts of the fuselage and landing gear. The search for the front portion of the aircraft is continuing.
Sharma said the black box was at Chennai’s Meenambakkam air station and will be sent to HAL in Bengaluru for decoding. The black box can reveal what happened during the flight. “It can give us a digital view of what happened on the plane,” Sharma said.
He said the details available so far were not enough to conclude if the plane crashed due to human element or technical malfunction.
When asked if the Coast Guard’s Dorniers will be grounded following the accident, Sharma said there is no need for this. “Even after the crash we have flown the Dorniers and they were used in search operations as well."
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.