Itanagar, Aug 5 (IANS): A helicopter with an Arunachal Pradesh government official and two pilots onboard remained untraced for the second day on Wednesday as inclement weather hampered the aerial search operation.
On Tuesday, the missing Dauphin VT-PHK helicopter owned by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd took off from Khonsa at 10.15 am for Longding and lost communication with the ground after the Air Traffic Control (ATC) in Chabua contacted the pilot five minutes after departure.
"We have not been able to locate the missing helicopter in view of the inclement weather in the State," Arunachal Pradesh police chief S Nithianandam told IANS. "Aerial search operation could not be carried out due to foggy weather besides it is drizzling. However, the search and rescue operation on the ground is still on in Tirap area," he said. Nithianandam said rescue teams of the Indian Air Force, Indian Army, police, as well as paramilitary troopers have been focusing their search mission in Tirap in the southern part of Arunachal Pradesh.
The missing helicopter was on a routine sortie to Longding and was to return to Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh city when the contact was lost. The ATC received the last signal from the chopper near Deomali in Tirap, officials said.
Expressing concern over the incident, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki has asked the officials to intensify the search for the chopper after it remained untraced for hours.
Soon after the Pawan Hans helicopter went missing, four Indian Air Force (IAF) and Pawan Hans helicopters carried out aerial search operation to trace the missing helicopter and they later suspended the operation due to bad weather.
In 2011, then Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu and four other people died after their Pawan Hans chopper crashed at a remote location in the State. A few days later, another helicopter crashed while landing in Tawang, killing 16 people.
Following the crashes, commercial chopper services were stopped in the State till 2013 when Pawan Hans restarted service in Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the region.
Pawan Hans Helicopter Services Limited (PHHL) has been operating chopper services across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang services for over 15 years.
It is one of the major lifelines in landlocked Arunachal Pradesh.