Chennai, July 23: The ill-fated AN-32 that went off radar yesterday, with 29 personnel onboard, at 9:30 am is said to have encountered three technical snags earlier this month, despite an overhauling process and an upgrade refit in September last year.
Inside sources, however, said that the snags were minor, which included hydraulic and pressure leak in various parts of the craft. The same source confirmed that none of the flights were allowed to take off without a complete check.
However, things were different with the AN-32 fleet as it was suffering from poor serviceability, delays in overhauls and shortage of spares, tardy maintenance, all leading to an increasing aircraft on ground percentage over the years.
The missing plane was part of 50 such medium-lift tactical aircraft, which went airframe strengthening and advanced avionics under a the $398 million contract inked with Ukraine in June 2009.
The 101 AN-32s were inducted in the Indian Air Force between 1984 to 1991. 40 of them were re-equipped in Ukraine, while the rest 61 were undergoing the process gradually at the 1 Base Repair Depot at Kanpur.
The overhauling was required as 70% of the existing fleet had crossed their expiry date between 2009 and 2012.
AN-32s are equipped for 20,000 flying hours and 15,000 landings.
India has plans to replace its ageing AN-32 fleet with a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA), in collaboration with Russia. Agreements for co-development and co-production of the MTA were also signed between the two countries. Under the proposal, India was to get 45 planes, Russia 100 and the rest were to be sold to other countries.
However, the plan has taken a backseat because of cost-viability, timelines for delivery as well as its failure to meet the high-altitude requirements.
Meanwhile, the IAF has called for a court of Inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of the military aircraft. Considered to be one of the most reliable carriers in the air force, owing to its safe track records, it was rather surprising that the aircraft could not even make a Mayday call before its disappearance.