Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hercules Plane Lost at Sea; Searchers Find Debris, Parts

A piece of the missing Herc?
An Air Force C-130H Hercules disappeared Dec. 9 en route to Antartica, and debris located near the point of last contact appears ti be from the missing aircraft. Pieces of foam that may be from the fuel tanks were spotted about 30 km south of the last known location, FACh announced Nov. 11. Later in the day, Brazil's government said its polar ship found more pieces of wreckage and personal belongings. On Twitter, photos showed an aircraft wheel being pulled from the water. The search area had been expanded to an area of 700 km by 250 km, basically between the southern tip of South America and Antartica. Chile's Air Force is using F-16 and F-5 fighter jets, transport planes and helicopters to scan the ocean, while the Navy assigned patrol planes, two frigates, an offshore patrol vessel and its multi-role ship to the search. Teams from Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Uruguay joined the mission. The U.S. sent a Poseidon P-8A maritime reconnaissance plane from El Salvador to aid searchers. Satellites are taking images of the search zone as well. The Hercules was on a routine mission to resupply one of several bases Chile operates in Antartica. The 38 passengers and crew were mainly FACh personnel, plus three Army officers, two contract workers and one university engineer. The bases are used not just to plant the flag on the Antartic territory, but to conduct a number of scientific projects. The plane went down in the treacherous and frigid waters of what's known as Drake's Passage, complicating search efforts. There was no distress signal, and the plane was declared lost once it became clear it would not make its destination. The C-130H is said to have been in good operating conditions, although it had a long service life since it was built in 1978. It was acquired from the U.S. in 2015. Update: Searchers have found more wreckage of the plane and human remains. Officials say all 38 on board are presumed dead.