The wreckage of the Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard that went missing with a three-member crew on board off the Tamil Nadu coast more than a month ago has been finally located, officials said on Friday.
Indian Naval Submarine Sindhudhavaj, searching for the missing aircraft, located the Dornier at a depth of 995 metres, 16.5 nautical miles off Pichavaram in Cuddalore district, officials said.
Its black box or flight data recorder, which has been recovered with help from Reliance Industries' multifunctional support vessel (MSV), will be analysed to ascertain what had happened to the aircraft, the officials said.
The Naval ship picked up a barrage of transmissions in a depth of 996 meters on 6 July. This information was a vital source for deployment of the Reliance vessel, mv Olympic Canyon to localise the search.
Consequently, in an unrelenting and uninterrupted search which, included 693 hours of surface effort and 196 hours of air effort, finally yielded results.
The state-of-the-art multifunctional support vessel (MSV) of Reliance India Limited with integrated remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was able to locate and recover the Flight Data Recorder (FDR ) and one Line Replacement Unit (LRU) from a depth of 950 metres in a unique and first ever salvage at such depths.
The FDR could provide vital inputs towards establishing the cause of the incident. This is a major accomplishment to the unprecedented search operation which was launched about 30 days back.
The Dornier aircraft went missing on 8 June 2015 after a routine maritime surveillance sortie along the Tamil Nadu coast.
Indian warships and planes had mounted a massive search operation for the Dornier hours after the plane went missing off the Chennai coast after taking off for a surveillance sortie.
Its crew comprised two pilots and a navigator. Though there was no official word from the Coast Guard, it had been feared that none of the crew had survived.
This was the second incident this year involving a Dornier aircraft of the armed forces. In March, two crew members of a Dornier of the navy were killed when it crashed off the Goa coast. Lieutenant Kiran Shekhawat, one of the two people killed in the crash, was the first woman officer of the armed forces to die in the line of duty.
The missing Dornier was a new aircraft inducted in the Coast Guard in 2014 and was being flown by a ''highly experienced crew'', defence ministry officials had said earlier.
Dorniers cannot fly above 10,000 feet and are mainly used for low altitude maritime surveillance. While the aircraft has parachutes and other life-saving gear, the low altitude at which the plane was flying could make an escape challenging, officials said.