Eleven persons on board an Indian Air Force (IAF) AN-32 aircraft that crashed and caught fire while landing in Chandigarh on Saturday evening were fortunate to be alive, say sources close to the investigation into the accident.
The aircraft, which was returning from Srinagar, via Bhatinda, after delivering flood relief supplies, had five IAF personnel and six passengers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on board.
Had all of them not escaped through an emergency hatch, this accident could have paralleled the Uttarakhand helicopter crash, in which five IAF personnel, six Indo-Tibet Border Police troopers, and nine NDRF personnel were killed in an IAF helicopter crash during a flood relief mission on June 25, 2013.
The AN-32 aircraft, while landing, appears to have dropped too quickly, bounced off the runway, and hit one wing against the ground. Since an AN-32’s wing also serves as the fuel tank, the aviation turbine fuel spraying around at high temperature set the wing alight – forcing the passengers into an emergency evacuation while airport tenders fought the blaze. Some of the injuries caused by the crash are believed to be serious.
The AN-32 transport aircraft is one of the IAF’s most reliable workhorses, capable of landing on short strips at high altitudes. The fleet of more than 100 aircraft is being refurbished to extend its service life. The aircraft that crashed on Saturday had been upgraded in Ukraine recently.