A Chilean Air Force C-130 Hercules, en route to Antarctica from Punta Arenas, with 38 people on board has gone missing, prompting desperate search efforts
The aircraft took off from Punta Arenas at 16:55 local time and air traffic control lost contact at 18:13. On board at the time were 17 crew members and 21 passengers, according to the Chilean Air Force. The passengers were heading to Antarctica’s King George Island to provide logistical support on a military base.
During a media briefing, Air Force General, Gen Eduardo Mosqueira, said no distress signal was sent out by the pilots, who apparently had extensive experience flying the type. Currently the Chilean Air Force believes the aircraft may have had to perform a forced landing on water.
A statement from the air force said that the aircraft was approximately 450 miles into its 770 mile flight when contact was lost. A map shows the last known location of the aircraft, which is estimated to be within the Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage is a body of water that connects the South Pacific Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean. The area is known for nasty weather, however the Chilean Air Force says the weather at the time of the flight was good.
Additionally, the aircraft was loaded with enough fuel to safely maintain flight until around 00:40; partially ruling out the chance of fuel exhaustion.
An update on the Chilean Air Force website notes that more than seven hours after radio contact was lost the aircraft had been declared damaged.
National and foreign air and maritime search craft were dispatched immediately after knowledge of the disappearance was gathered; they are currently working in the area to secure a location and recover any people that may still be alive.
The equipment being used to search for the missing aircraft consists of the following:
- 2x Merchant ships
- 2x Chilean Navy ships
- 1x Chilean Air Force DHC-6 Twin Otter
- 1x BAE DASH-1 DAP Aerovias
- 2x Chilean Air Force F-5E
- 1x Chilean Air Force C-130 Hercules
- 1x Chilean Navy P-111
- 1x P-295 aircraft of the Chilean Navy
- 4x F-16 aircraft of the Chilean Air Force in flight to Punta Arenas
- 1x C-130 aircraft of the Uruguayan Air Force
- 1x C-130 aircraft of the Air Force Argentina
- 2x satellite orbits of the United States for image capture
- 1x daytime satellite orbit of the FASat Charlie satellite for image capture
The search radius stands at 60 miles from the last point of contact.
Three of the passengers on board the aircraft are Chilean soldiers, two are civilian engineering and construction firm workers and one is a student studying at Magellanes University. The remaining 15 passengers are members of the Air Force according to the BBC.
Direct family members of the people on board the aircraft have been contacted by air force officials. The air force has also published the list of names of the people involved in the accident.
The President of Chile has released a statement on the accident in a tweet saying he is “dismayed by the loss”. The BBC reports that he has travelled to the Cerrillos Air Base to monitor search efforts. Joining him and the search coordinators is Interior Minister, Gonzalo Blumel, and Defence Minister, Alberto Espina.
More information will be added to this article as it becomes available.