December 10, 2019 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A C-130 Hercules (#990) took off from Punta Arenas and was en route to Antarctica when contact was lost at 18:13hrs. 38 people were travelling to provide logistical support to a military base on Antarctica's King George Island.
Chilean AF C-130R #990 taken on September 19th 2018 at SCEL during Army day in Chile. [Photo by Simon Blaise Olivera]
The C-130 Hercules aircraft had departed from the Chilean capital of Santiago and stopped briefly in Punta Arenas near the country's southern tip, the Chilean Air Force said in a statement. The four-engine aircraft took off from there at 16:55hrs local time and continued toward the country's Antarctic base before losing radio contact around 18:00hrs local time near the Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage is a body of water connecting the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, and is known for treacherous weather conditions. But Chile's air force said local weather was good at the time of the plane's disappearance.
It also said that the plane would have had enough fuel to keep airborne until 00:40hrs. The plane did not activate any distress signal.
A search-and-rescue mission is under way in which eight planes and four ships are taking part. An initial overflight of the area where communication was lost failed to yield any sign of the missing plane. Rescuers are currently searching inside a 60-mile radius from the last point of contact.
Two US satellites are being used to capture images of the location where the plane went missing.
There were 17 crew members and 21 other passengers on board, who were on their way to perform "logistical support tasks" such as repairing the floating oil pipeline that provides fuel for the base, said the Air Force.
Three of the passengers were Chilean soldiers; two were civilians employed by engineering and construction firm Inproser, who were going to carry out work on the military base; one was a student at Magellanes University; and the remaining 15 passengers were members of the air force.
Chile claims over 1.2m sq km (463,000 sq miles) of Antarctic territory and operates nine bases there.