Chennai: Fear mounted over the safety of a three-member crew of a Coast Guard Dornier surveillance aircraft that has gone missing off the coast of Tamil Nadu even as a massive search operation was launched to trace the plane.
Ships and aircraft were pressed into service for the search of the CG-791 plane, which was in touch with airport authorities in Tiruchirappalli and was located last night about 16 nautical miles off the coast of Chidambaram, somewhere between Cuddalore and Karaikal, a top Coast Guard (CG) official said.
Eight ships -- four each belonging to CG and Navy – are involved in the search operation upto 180 nautical miles in the northerly direction, Inspector General S P Sharma, Commander, Coast Guard (East), told reporters here.
A long-range maritime surveillance aircraft P81 and helicopters have also been involved in the exercise, he said, as questions were raised about the fate of the three crew comprising Pilot, Deputy Commandant Vidyasagar, Co-pilot Deputy Commandant M K Soni and Navigator Deputy Commandant Subash Suresh of the plane which was inducted last year.
The Coast Guard is in touch with the family members of the crew who are showing "resilience", the official said, expressing confidence about locating the aircraft soon.
The plane was undertaking a night sortie as part of CG's regular surveillance operations which look "for suspicious activities" in the seas when it lost contact at 9.23 pm Monday, Sharma said.
It had taken off from Chennai at 5:30 pm and was being flown by a "highly qualified" and "well-trained" crew.