Weather improves, search resumes for for crashed Mig29 Pilot


Shimla: With the weather situation improving in the Chokhang hills of Lahaul Spiti, the IAF has resumed search for the Mig29 jet and its pilot after 3 days of break. Incessant rain and snowfall over the last 3 days had stopped the search and resuce operations over the valley. The IAF hopes to find the Mig29 wreckage before the onset of winter snowfall in the valley as the area would then be cut-off from the rest of the country for four months.

The local administration has been assisting the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army in carrying out search operations to locate the main portion of the crashed jet. There was no break through reported throughout the day as IAF, Police and Army jawans could not reach the crash site as well as rescue the pilot.

Lahaul and Spiti Deputy Commissioner Rajeev Shankar said search began this morning as the sky was clear. He said that no combing could be done on Sunday due to continuous snow. The IAF has deployed a Dornier, an AN-32, SU-30 and Chetak and Cheetah helicopters to survey the Chokhang hills, 40 km from district headquarters Keylong.

Some locals last week claimed to have spotted burnt pieces of the aircraft in the hills of Thirot but the search parties have not been able to reach the site due to high winds and snowfall.“The crash spot has been zeroed in on but overnight snowfall is hampering efforts,” an IAF official said over phone from the spot. “Now, it will take double the effort to locate the wreckage because search parties have to first dig through the snow.”

General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) commanding officer Praveen Yernurkar, posted in the area, said that most of the mountains in the Lahaul Valley are glaciers. “Throughout the year you will see some snow in the morning. Now the temperatures have dipped massively and chances of continuous snow are high,” he said. “Even oxygen is quite minimal and high velocity winds start blowing every afternoon.”

An IAF AN-12 aircraft with 102 defense personnel on board crashed on the 17,400-foot-high Dakka Glacier in the Chanderbhaga ranges in Lahaul & Spiti on Feb 7, 1968. Only four bodies have been recovered so far in many expeditions till 2009. The cause of that crash is still a mystery as the plane’s black box has not been recovered.

The Lahaul Valley, comprising more than two dozen small, scattered villages, remains cut off owing to heavy snow accumulation in the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), the only connection with Manali in Kullu district, amid temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius.


Editors note: We hope that the Pilot of the crashed plane is safe and rescued soon. Our wishes are with family members of this brave soldier. This is yet another reminder of the challenges and risks faced by our soldiers for keeping our nation safe and secure.

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