The Coast Guard said on Sunday it is hopeful of getting some “concrete information” about the Dornier aircraft that went missing six days ago with a submarine joining the search operation.
A top Coast Guard official said the submarine INS Sindhudhvaj had begun its search in the area where the aircraft is believed to have disappeared from radar screens.
The last known location of the Dornier – which had taken off from Chennai on a routine surveillance sortie with a three-member crew on board – was Karaikkal near Puducherry.
Hopes for the safe recovery of the Dornier’s crew – deputy commandant Vidyasagar who was piloting the aircraft, co-pilot and deputy commandant Subash Suresh and navigator MK Soni, all in their 30s – are fast fading as nearly six days have elapsed since the aircraft went missing.
This is the second incident this year involving a Dornier aircraft of the armed forces. In March, two crew members of a Dornier aircraft of the navy were killed when it crashed off the Goa coast.
INS Sindhudhvaj is conducting a search in the area where a sonar locator beacon transmission on 37.5 kHz was picked up by the survey ship INS Sandhayak on Friday, officials said.
“By late in the evening today, we should get some concrete information on the missing aircraft. The television reports about locating the aircraft underwater are totally wrong,” the Coast Guard official said.
The manufacturer of the Dornier will be asked to assist in analysing and deciphering the reasons for the aircraft’s disappearance, he said.
“Unless we get the flight data recorder or spot the missing aircraft, we cannot say anything,” the official added.
A statement from the Coast Guard said a team from the National Institute of Oceanography had joined the search operation. A search probe will be lowered into the sea in an attempt to receive signals from the aircraft’s beacon.
A total of eight ships and aircraft of the Coast Guard and Indian Navy are participating in the search, the statement said. So far, the aircraft have flown for 124 hours.
The National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad has been requested to provide satellite imagery of the area to help in locating the aircraft. It had said that the presence of cloud cover in the most probable area was precluding the detection of any object on the sea surface. Second imagery by a microwave satellite was scheduled for Sunday.
The search operation turned lucky for a fishing boat in distress, as its SOS was responded to within minutes by the Coast Guard ship Abheek. The boat with 10 fishermen on board was rescued and safely brought to Puducherry harbour.