Sad news from the Antarctic today, where it has been revealed that a Chilean military aircraft flying over the Southern Ocean has gone missing. The C-130 cargo plane was en route to King George Island yesterday, with contact being lost about an hour and a half into the flight. There were 17 crew members and 21 passengers aboard.
According to the BBC, the flight took off from Punta Arenas, Chile yesterday at 4:55 PM local time, after originating in Santiago earlier in the day. The aircraft was heading to King George to provide support for a military base located on the island. It was about 450 miles (725 km) into the trip when it went missing, putting it roughly 220 miles (354 km) short of its destination. That would put it squarely inside the Drake Passage, a notoriously rough stretch of sea that could hamper any search and rescue operations.
The C-130 was carrying both military personnel and civilian passengers when it went missing. One of the primary goals of the trip was to deliver a crew to the island to survey a a floating fuel pipeline and conduct routine maintenance and upgrades. To that end, there were several engineers aboard the aircraft, as well as a student from Magellanes University. Mot of the passengers were members of the Chilean air force.
While the Southern Ocean and the Drake Passage are known for being extremely dangerous and stormy, the weather across the region was said to be good at the time. Officials also say that the pilot did not initiate an emergency beacon before the aircraft went missing either, although they suspect that he may have attempted to land the plane on the water. At this point, that is mostly speculation however, as there are few details to go on.
Search and rescue operations are already underway, with not just Chilean ships and planes, but support from the U.S., Uruguay, and Argentina too. Those searches are currently concentrated on an area with a 60-mile radius of where the aircraft was last in contact. Initial flights over that region haven’t revealed any signs of wreckage at this time.
Right now, that is about all we know on this story. What exactly happened will likely remain a mystery for now, but hopefully we’ll be able to piece together the story as more information is revealed. I’ll update with further news as we learn more.
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