Missing Coast Guard plane found, black box recovered



Some debris of the Coast Guard Dornier aircraft, missing for over a month now, have been found on the sea bed off the Tamil Nadu coast and its flight data recorder recovered, the defence ministry said on Friday.

There was, however, no information about its three crew members though family members were still hopeful of their survival.

Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar tweeted that the debris was located "in position 17 NM (nautical miles) from nearest land" and approximately "20 NM southeast of Cuddalore in 950 m depth".

The vital Flight Data Recorder and one Line Replacement Unit of the ill-fated aircraft have been recovered.

"The Dornier aircraft has been found in the sea at a depth of 900 metres off Chidambaram. There is no information about the crew members," Coast Guard Commander East Region, Inspector General Satya Prakash Sharma told IANS.

The announcement sparked some hope among the family of the missing crew members. Padma Suresh, mother of co-pilot Subhash Suresh, told IANS that they had heard that the black box or data recorder of the missing flight had been recovered but there was no information about the crew.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed... we are praying," she said.

An official statement said submarine INS Sindhudhavaj picked up a barrage of transmission at a depth of 996 meters on July 6, following which Reliance vessel MV Olympic Canyon was sent for localised search.

For the first time, the line replacement unit and flight data recorder were recovered from such a depth.

"The flight data recorder could provide vital inputs towards establishing the cause of incident. This is a major accomplishment to the unprecedented search operation which was launched 30 days back," the statement said.

The Dornier aircraft with pilot Deputy Commandant Vidyasagar, co-pilot, Deputy Commandant Subash Suresh and navigator/observer M.K. Soni went missing on the night of June 8 while returning to the base after a regular surveillance sortie along the Tamil Nadu coast and Palk Bay.

The FDR could provide vital inputs towards establishing the cause of the incident, said the Coast Guard, terming it a major accomplishment to the search operation which was launched soon after the Dornier went missing and has included 693 hours of surface effort and 196 hours of air effort.

The Dornier had gone missing on June 8. The aircraft, deployed for surveillance along Tamil Nadu coast and Palk Bay, took off from Chennai airport on June 8 evening around 6 p.m. but did not return after surveillance sorties.

An official statement said the last contact with the aircraft was made at 9 p.m. on Monday.

The last known location of the aircraft as per Trichy radar was off Karaikal in Puducherry, where it was tracked till 9.23 p.m., 95 nautical miles south of Chennai. - IANS