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Bad weather slows hunt for lost Hercules plane

16 Mar 2012, 07:37

Published: 16 Mar 2012 07:37 GMT+01:00

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Strong winds and heavy cloud cover forced helicopters to break off their overnight search for the plane, which was carrying five Norwegian crew members when it lost radio and radar contact around 2.40pm on Thursday afternoon.

However helicopters were back in the air by Friday morning, concentrating their search in three areas around Mount Kebnekaise, Sweden's tallest peak.

"These are the areas that are most likely [for the plane to be located] based on the last radar signal we have and a spot which a heat sensing camera from a Norwegian surveillance aircraft picked up last night," rescue operations leader Jonas Sundin of the Swedish sea and air rescue services told the TT news agency.

Map: Rescuers believe the plane crashed at Drakryggen, near Mount Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest peak.

In addition to the difficult weather conditions, avalanche concerns complicated ground-based rescue efforts.

"There are a few ground patrols out and driving around on snowmobiles, but there is a great risk for avalanches. We have a lot of manpower at the ready, but we're limited by the avalanche danger," said rescue operations leader Bengt-Olov Hammarlöf to TT.

"It's only the most experienced [rescuers] who can go into these areas when it's dark."

So far, no emergency signals from the missing plane have been detected.

"For some reason, it hasn't been set off. Either the crash was so violent or so terrible that it was knocked out of operations by the impact, but there is also an emergency signal transmitter in the life vests but those must be switched on by hand and for that, you have to be conscious," said Hammarlöf.

The aircraft went missing when it was on its way from Evenes in northern Norway to Kiruna in the far north of Sweden.

At the time, the Hercules was was participating in the Cold Response military training exercise taking place over northern Norway which was scheduled to run from March 12th to March 21st and included 16,000 soldiers from 15 countries.

"There was a crew of four on board as well as an extra officer. Their mission was to fly from Evenes to Kiruna to pick up materiel and personnel and fly back to Norway," Harald Sunde, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces told Norwegian news agency NTB.

He added that the officers on board the Hercules aircraft were among the "most experienced" in the Norwegian military and that there were no clues regarding what may have happened.

"We have nothing that points us in any particular direction. This is a very robust and new aircraft, one of the best there is. It's been hard to have bad luck with this type of aircraft," said Sunde.

Story continues below…

The missing aircraft is a C-130 J "Super" Hercules transport plane manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the United States.

The plane is one of four C-130 Js ordered by the Norwegian air force in 2007, the first of which was delivered in November 2008.

TT/The Local/dl


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Your comments about this article

10:04 March 16, 2012 by Liquidmonkey
this is very sad.

and odd that it happens. the mountains there are not very high nor is it that isolated that a helicopter or plane could not see the wreckage from a massive plane like that it. IF it crashed, it would be 500 meters long.

hope all are well.

reminds me of the helicopter crash near tarfalla some years ago.
10:55 March 16, 2012 by Rick Methven
the distance from Evenes to Kiruna is 130 nautical miles and crosses a very rugged and mountainous terrain with such a lot of valleys and forest that a C130 could be hard to find especially when the ELT is not working.
12:18 March 16, 2012 by skogsbo
the crashsite could be as little as a 100m square, or it could be strewn over such a large area with very small airfix pieces, that snow could easily blow over it and it won't look like an aircraft anymore.

Air searches are good, but getting boots on the ground is key. Especially early on, you can smell smoke and avtur for many mileages if search into the wind.

Apart from on operations, when be shot down, hercs have a outstanding good air worthiness track record, only been to 2 herc crashes and both were pilot error. It doesn't bode well that their PLBs were not activated either.

With 4 engines and the means to ditch freight should 3 of the 4 engines fail, making it lighter, it is very unlikely to be mechanical failure. I would suspects showboating or navigation.. flying down the wrong pass to low and discovering it to be a deadend and too steep to climb out - as was the cause of a UK Herc crash in Scotland sometime ago. The leaves a very small impact site, that can only be seen from the right angle and could easily be overflown.
21:00 March 16, 2012 by Gomez1111
All this military mess look more and more like UFO abduction case. Newspaper titles are very misleading too.So did they (rescuers) find the wreckage of the plane or not?.... Look in to this story yourself folks ;-)
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