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Posted at: Aug 19, 2019, 6:51 AM; last updated: Aug 19, 2019, 6:01 PM (IST)

51 years after HP crash, Army team recovers parts of An-12 aircraft

51 years after HP crash, Army team recovers parts of An-12 aircraft
A team of Dogra Scouts at the scene of the An-12 crash at Dhaka Glacier. Tribune photo

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18

An Army trekking expedition has recovered parts of the remains of an Air Force An-12 transport aircraft that had crashed in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh in 1968.

A team of Dogra Scouts was launched on July 26 to Dhaka Glacier under the aegis of Headquarter Western Command with an aim to recover the mortal remains of soldiers who were onboard. The An-12 bearing serial number BL-534 had gone missing over Rohtang Pass on February 7, 1968.

After 13 days of rigorous search and recovery operations in Dhaka Glacier at an altitude of 5,240 m, the team recovered parts of the aircraft like the aero engine, fuselage, electric circuits, propeller, fuel tank unit, air brake assembly and a cockpit door as well as personal belongings of some of the passengers who were onboard the ill-fated aircraft. The search area, including location of recoveries, has been mapped for future reference.

The expedition was joined by a team of the Indian Air Force on August 6 to augment the search and identification efforts.

The glacier had high levels of snow accumulation due to old avalanches, precipitous gradients, avalanche prone slopes and open crevasses along the course, which made movement of the team difficult and energy sapping.

The An-12 aircraft, with 102 soldiers and four crew members, had gone missing over the Rohtang Pass while returning from Leh to Chandigarh. The aircraft was on a routine sortie from Chandigarh to Leh when inclement weather in Ladakh forced the aircrew to abort landing and turn back.

At that time there was a perception that the aircraft could have strayed across the border and may have been forced to land in the enemy territory with all persons on board being taken as prisoners.

It was only in 2003 that a team of young trekkers from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute that was attempting to negotiate the Chandra Bhaga-13 stumbled over debris of an aircraft near Dhaka Glacier and found the remains of a human body that was identified as Sepoy Beli Ram, one of the soldiers on the flight.

In August 2007, an Army expedition recovered three more bodies. From 2003 to 2009, three search missions were carried out with four more bodies being found.

On July 11 this year, a mountaineering team found another body along with some remains of the aircraft. The remaining are still unaccounted for. The discovery of the remains gave a fresh ray of hope to the families of soldiers on board on receiving their body for the last rites. 

Was on routine sortie 

  • The An-12 aircraft, with 102 soldiers and four crew members, had gone missing over the Rohtang Pass while returning from Leh to Chandigarh 
  • The aircraft was on a routine sortie from Chandigarh to Leh when inclement weather in Ladakh forced the aircrew to abort landing and turn back
  • The team found aero engine, propeller, fuel tank unit, cockpit door and personal belongings of passengers who were onboard the aircraft

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