Pilot’s wife was on ATC duty when IAF transport plane AN-32 went missing: Sandhya Tanwar was on duty at the IAF’s Air Traffic Control in Jorhat, watching as her husband Ashish Tanwar piloted an An-32 aircraft that took off from the airbase for the thickly forested area of Menchuka in Arunachal Pradesh that fateful Monday afternoon.
Barely half an hour later, the plane went off the radar, leaving the young Tanwar to be one of the first to know about the disappearance of the IAF transport aircraft that had 12 others also on board.
Sandhya, an air traffic control officer posted at the Johrat airbase, married Flight Lieutenant Ashish Tanwar in 2018. And, never would have she thought that the couple who were united just a year ago would be separated under such unfortunate circumstances. Four days on, a massive search and rescue operation to trace the Russian-origin aircraft continues, with these tense circumstances leaving family members in despair.
The IAF has said the aircraft took off from Jorhat 12.27 p.m. for the Menchuka advance landing ground in Shi-Yomi district in Arunachal, and its last contact with the ground control was at 1 p.m. The Air Force transport aircraft was making a 50-minute journey to the Mechuka Advance Landing Ground in Arunachal Pradesh when it went missing. The Air Force has deployed Mi-17 and ALH helicopters, besides Sukhoi Su-30 and C-130J fighter jets, in its efforts to find the missing aircraft. On Thursday, unmanned aerial vehicles were also pressed into service.
The Tanwars, however, aren’t satisfied. “There are over four lakh army personnel in the eastern sector. Why can’t they be deployed to look for our boy? They should also look into the possibility of the aircraft crossing into China,” Udayvir Singh, the pilot’s paternal uncle, told ANI. He has sought an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to put forth the family’s demands.
The Flight Lieutenant’s family in Haryana’s Palwal is getting increasingly anxious. The pilot’s mother, Saroj Tanwar said, “My son and his wife, Sandhya, had come home last month, after which they left for Thailand on a weeklong vacation. Back then, Ashish assured us that he will be back soon. But now it’s been four days since I have even received any news about him.”
Believing that her son may not even be in the country anymore, she further added, “I am sure the aircraft has crossed into China. Why is the government not negotiating with Chinese authorities to fast-track his return? A search operation is on, but we have been told that they cannot locate the aircraft due to bad weather.”
According to Udayvir Singh, Ashish Tanwar opted for a career in the military because almost everybody in his family is either with the Air Force or Army. He said, “He completed his early education from Kendriya Vidyalaya and later joined a B Tech course in Kanpur. After working with a multinational company for a while, he joined the Air Force in December 2013. He was commissioned as a pilot in May 2015.”