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Missing Odia IAF Pilot’s Father Urges PM, Chief Of Air Staff To Replace An-32 Aircraft


08 June 2019

Shailaja Mohapatra


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Bhubaneswar: Young Flight Lieutenant Sunit Mohanty’s parents have been left devastated after their son went missing along with 12 others, who were all on-board Indian Air Force’s An-32 aircraft that went off the radar on Monday.

Sunit’s father Surendranath Mohanty has also served in the IAF for 33 years. The retired Group Captain said, “I have flown the An-32 for five to six years. The 40-year-old design of the aircraft has several structural defects and needs to be replaced immediately. Many accidents have happened and several families have been destroyed due to the aircraft. I was lucky but, luck may not favour everyone.”

It is notable to mention here that in June of 2016, the Russian-origin An-32 plane with 29 people on board had gone missing while flying from Chennai to Port Blair. A few months after the incident, a Court of Inquiry concluded that those on board the missing aircraft were to be "presumed dead".

“I met the Chief of Air Staff today at Jorhat and urged him to consider replacing this aircraft. I have also mailed Prime Minister Modi about the same. The aircraft has to be phased out and a replacement should be brought in as soon as possible,” he added.

The Mohanty family, currently settled in New Delhi, originally hails from Kabisuryanagar in Aska of Odisha’s Ganjam district. Aska MP Pramila Bisoyi has also been apprised of the issues with the aircraft. Meanwhile, Kabisuryanagar wears a deserted and gloomy look. After reports emerged of native boy Sunit missing, an eerie silence prevailed in his hometown. His uncle Ballabh Mohanty sobbingly said, “We have been checking newspapers everyday to see any updates but, there is no news of his return yet.”

The crew of the An-32 aircraft went off the radar in dense forests of Arunanchal Pradesh on Monday after taking off from Jorhat in Assam. Sunit was commissioned into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2013 and is a bright officer, said his father. "I have suggested the Air Staff to talk with the Chinese forces so that ground search can be done from their side as well," he added.

Meanwhile the Indian Air Force tweeted, “All electronic, radar, optical & infrared sensors including satellites are being employed to scan the area for any probable clues. Army, Police, State Govt, Paramilitary Forces and local population are lending crucial support in the search.”

“Army search teams have been in the area for over two days, going through thick forest to locate the aircraft. Senior Air Staff Officer of Eastern Air Command is coordinating and supervising search operations at Along. Indian Navy P8i, IAF C-130 aircraft, Mi-17, ALH & Cheetah helicopters & Indian Army ALH helicopter also undertook search missions. More than 150 hrs have been flown in search of the missing An32,” they added.

The IAF has been in regular touch with families of missing air-warriors. Some family members have been briefed about the search efforts. All possible assistance is being provided to them and the IAF has assured to stand by their side.

“For now, we are praying to God and hoping for a miracle,” Sunit’s father said.

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Surendranath Mohanty, Group Captain (retd), IAF