The Indian Air Force’s An-32 aircraft, that was on a courier flight from Chennai to Port Blair was last seen on radar at 9:12 am, when it left the range of Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR). IAF claims the aircraft was in contact till 08.46 am on high frequency.
Aircraft are equipped with Weather Radars, that are able to detect adverse weather ahead – including precipitation, turbulence and windshear. It is common airmanship to fly out of bad weather. It is also common practice to divert or deviate when flying towards a storm. The same thing goes for turbulence.
Aircraft turbulence can be of many types — ranging from a light chop, that will spill your coffee, to heavy turbulence that will throw you and your luggage around. All aircraft are designed to flex up and down during flight, which helps absorbs moderate and even heavy turbulence without causing any damage to the air frame. Aircraft do not fall out of the skies due to turbulence, however, that doesn’t mean that it can never happen.
Back in March 1966, a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) 707 crashed near Mount Fuji in Japan after encountering abnormally severe clear-air turbulence that put stress on the aircraft in excess to its design capabilities.
WATCH VIDEO: Indian Air Force’s An-32 Plane Goes Missing
An-32 has been a trustworthy workhorse for the IAF for many years and is designed to be extensively used. The service ceiling of this turboprop aircraft is 31,000 ft, which means that it flies lower than most commercial jet liners (which have a service ceiling of 40,000 ft) and also flies slower with a cruising speed of 470 kmph. This gives lesser room for the An-32 to outrun bad weather or climb over it.
The aircraft has encountered technical snags previously. According to some reports, on July 14, the aircraft suffered a pressure leak from the port door. On July 7, a hydraulic leak from Port Wing Root and on July 2, a throttle movement was sluggish.
Improper maintenance of any of these snags can result in an aircraft crashing. A sudden pressure leak could damage the structural integrity of the aircraft, and a slow undetected leak could cause Hypoxia for the pilots. A loss of hydraulic pressure can also render the aircraft uncontrollable. But, all of this is in the realm of speculation.
Antonov An-32 is a tactical transport aircraft used by the Indian Air Force and have been in service since 1984. All An-32s are scheduled to be upgraded by 2016, before being eventually replaced by the Indo-Russian Multi-role transport aircraft Il-214, that is being jointly developed by United Aircraft Corporation of Russia and HAL, and is expected to fly in 2018.
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