Thursday, September 22, 2016

How has India managed to lose two military planes in two years?

On July 22, 2016, the Indian Air Force's AN-32 aircraft with 29 passengers on board disappeared from the radar en route to Port Blair from Chennai. For two months now, the Air Force and the Navy have been combing several stretches of the Bay of Bengal as a part in search of the aircraft.

Last year, on June 8, a Coast Guard aircraft with a crew of three disappeared during its flight over the Bay of Bengal. Its debris were found only 33 days later, 95 nautical miles south of Chennai at a depth of 950 metres below the sea.

Now, two government ships have narrowed down on six locations where the wreckage of the AN-32 aircraft can be possibly found, reported The Indian Express.

But, on 15 September, the Indian Air Force officials said that all passengers on board can be "presumed dead" and their families had been informed. They also said that the search for the plane would still continue, reported The News Minute.

In an interview with, aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan talks about how these two incidents reveal the lack of precaution and poor surveillance capability of the Air Force.
What is your theory about what happened to the plane?
It is quite likely that the aircraft might have been overloaded. From what I understand, it doesn’t take 157 miles for an aircraft to reach 20,000 feet. The very fact that it was struggling to climb past 19,000 feet is a clear indication that it was probably overloaded. And if it was overloaded and there was turbulent weather, the pilot could have lost control. Many of the accidents at higher altitude, have been termed as loss-of-control accidents. When you are at the limit of your flight envelope, your flight control can become totally unusable. The Air Force people do not undergo regular simulator training as civil pilots do, so it's very unlikely they might have done any training for these control problems at altitudes. It is quite likely that because of overload, the pilot could have stalled the aircraft due to turbulence and lost control.

Is it normal for such aircrafts to carry 29 people?
This is actually a supply flight for taking groceries and vegetables. It is quite likely that the cargo load of the groceries would have been quite heavy. And on top of that, you add 29 passengers including their baggage. You are looking at around 100 kilograms per passenger. So with 29 passengers, you are adding almost three tonnes to the weight of that aircraft. So I think the AN-32, with three tonnes of additional load, was most likely overloaded.
21/09/16 Vinita Govindarajan/ News
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