CHENNAI: While the search for IAF’s missing transport aircraft AN-32 entering the 11th day, the planned underwater search by research vessels was delayed because of rough seas. Speculation nevertheless continued on the aircraft possibly crashing somewhere in the Vizag forests.
However, the vastness of the search area in the absence of any pings from the aircraft has made the search extremely complex. The hope now is pinned on underwater search by two research vessels - the Geological Survey of India’s (GSI) oceanographic research vessel Samudra Ratnakar and the National Institute of Ocean Technology’s (NIOT) research vessel Sagar Nidhi - which have the ability of looking for objects at a depth of 3,500 metres.
Sources informed Express that the NIOT vessel was yet to reach the spot as the sea was rough. It is unlikely that the underwater search could be done before the end of this week. The GSI vessel would be reaching the spot on August 4 while the NIOT vessel was expected by August 5. The underwater search though would be coordinated.
While the NIOT vessel would be doing the search in the nuclei of 20x20 nautical miles using its multi-echo sounder and sub-bottom profiling, the GSI vessel would look into the periphery, which would cover 30x30 nautical miles.
The GSI vessel has advanced technology that includes deep-water and shallow-water multi-beam survey systems, a sub-bottom profiling system to map the marine sediment layers and a single-streamer multi-channel seismic system.
The two vessels will also be helped by the Indian Navy’s Hydrographic vessel INS Nirupak with autonomous underwater vehicle and camera.
Meanwhile, speculation is rife with one even going as far as suggesting a search for the aircraft in the jungles of Visakhapatnam. There are also rumours of senior officials hearing pings when the ELT as well as sonar locating beacon or the black box decoder of the aircraft doesn’t emit signals. There were even calls to officials and hospitals in Chennai asking them to prepare the mortuary for the bodies which still remain to be recovered from the deep sea.
Even as experts were trying to put across theories on how the aircraft would have gone missing, experts hoped that the pilot of the aircraft while descending from an altitude of 23,000 feet would have tried controlled ditching (controlled landing) on the sea by gliding the aircraft through the air.
When it was pointed out that there would have hardly been any time for the passengers to jump out of the aircraft, the sources said the aircraft still would have been flying at a speed of 200kmph and it could be one of the reasons that chances were not taken by the passengers.