MiG 29 wreckage located eight days after crash
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Last Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 19:29
  
Shimla/New Delhi: After an eight-day operation which saw 149 aerial sorties, the air force has located the wreckage of the MiG-29 fighter aircraft which had crashed on snow-clad mountains in Himachal Pradesh on October 19 but the fate of the pilot is not known.

"On Tuesday, the IAF task force confirmed locating crash site at 15,000 feet above Chokhang village in Lahaul area and informed that several components of the aircraft have been recovered after digging under the snow and rubble. These are being brought down to base camp for proper identification," a Western Air Command spokesperson said in Delhi.

An IAF chopper had dropped eight expert mountaineers including three from army on a ledge where they spent the night with just the basic survival gear.

The same site was also spotted by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) earlier in a photo reconnaissance mission but it could not be conclusively established since the ill-fated plane had disintegrated into small pieces and the debris was spread across the slopes on either side of a ridge, he said.

"The crash site could not be confirmed as the area came under fresh snowfall. Also, soot and burn marks along the slopes as seen in our recce imagery as well as by villagers also disappeared under the snow," the spokesperson said.

Since 19 October, about 55 personnel including expert mountaineers from the IAF, army and some hired mountaineers have been involved in the search for the pilot, Squadron Leader D S Tomar, and debris of the missing aircraft.

The task force commander Group Captain P K Sharma undertook aerial reconnaissance by helicopter to guide the teams to precise locations. The team was under threat from wild animals since fresh snow had claw marks of animals - suspected to be of bears in the area.

Also, the site had accumulated ice with crevices that were covered under fresh snow, making the progress even slower.

The IAF had deployed frontline fighter aircraft including Su-30MKI and Jaguars along with transport planes AN-32s, Avros and helicopters for the search operation and flew a total of 149 sorties till October 25.

Western Air Commander Air Marshal D C Kumaria has said that "the search would continue till we reach to the bottom of case and arrive at definite conclusions".

The crashed MiG-29 aircraft had taken off from Adampur base in Jalandhar for a night-flying exercise in high altitude when it crashed into the mountain.

Rajiv Shankar, Deputy Commissioner, Lahaul and spiti said that some pieces of the aircraft were recovered from Gangstang Glacier.

Earlier, some villagers of Thirot, 40 km from Keylong town, had spotted some burnt pieces of aircraft in Chokhang hills and brought three such pieces which, the IAF said, matched with that of MiG 29.

"The pieces of the wreckage in both the cases were recovered close to each other and prima facie it appears that the main parts of the crashed aircraft were also nearby," Shankar said.

"The trekkers have set up a base camp on the hilltop of Chokhang for search operations and the troops reach the base camp before the sunset," Deputy Superintendent of Police Khajana Ram said, adding that the state police and JK Rifles were providing logistic support to the trekkers.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 19:29


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