The pilot of the helicopter that carried Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy made the last contact with the Air Traffic Controller of the Shamshabad airport here at 9.12 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Bell 430 chopper took off from the Begumpet airport at 8.38 a.m., and the pilot spoke to the Shamshabad airport ATC at 8.39 a.m. He stayed in touch till 9.12 a.m., after which there was no contact, according to R.K. Singla, Director, Hyderabad International and Begumpet Airports.
At the time of the last contact, the helicopter was 80 km south southeast of Shamshabad. In between, at 9.02 a.m., the pilot spoke with the ATC of the Chennai airport through High Frequency Radio and was asked to report back at 9.30. The contact was lost before he could talk again.
Mr. Singla told The Hindu that in such situations, an emergency signal would be transmitted. But the fact that such a signal was not picked up indicated that it was not transmitted. Furthermore, there was no distress call or SOS from the pilot. The helicopter also had enough fuel.
With the helicopter failing to land at Chittoor at the scheduled time of 11 a.m., the police informed the airport authorities that its whereabouts were not known.
Mr. Singla said two IAF choppers which went in search of the missing helicopter returned owing to bad weather, while another helicopter of the State government landed at Atmakur in Kurnool district.
He said the ATC would normally inform the pilot about the weather conditions from the start till the landing point, including places en route. It was to be assumed that everything was fine till 9.12 a.m. when the pilot last communicated.