CHENNAI/NEW DELHI, July 26 (IANS): An Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 which went missing on July 22 remains untraced despite massive search operations in the Bay of Bengal, the authorities said on Tuesday.
"There is no trace of the aircraft and the search is still on," a Coast Guard official told IANS.
The navy, Coast Guard and IAF are searching for the plane or its debris. The plane with 29 people on board went missing shortly after taking off from Chennai for Port Blair.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is using its Radar Imaging Satellite to detect any floating debris.
The IAF has not divulged the names of the 29 passengers.
IAF spokesperson Anupam Banerjee declined to comment on the cargo on the plane. "It is not possible to share such information," Banerjee told IANS.
Meanwhile, in the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said every small lead was being followed in a bid to trace the missing AN-32.
"There were four to five links noticed. We are trying to find out whether they are misleading or they have some meaning...
"We have used satellite imagery. P8I aircraft is being used extensively, almost 30 ships including of the Coast Guard and the navy, and merchant ships are there. A submarine is in the area," he said. "We are getting a deep sea rescue vessel also."
Asked about reports of technical glitches in the aircraft, the minister said: "I will not like to comment on that but I can say very clearly that this (AN-32) is one of the safest aircraft the IAF flies.
"There have been only two reported accidents in the last 10 years. What you are talking of are small minor issues that crop up every time you fly and they are rectified," he said.
The recorded transcript of air traffic radar showed the last pick up of the aircraft was 151 nautical miles east of Chennai when it took a left turn with rapid loss of height from 23,000 feet.