Debris found after Chinese-made Myanmar military plane with 122 aboard crashes in Andaman Sea

The former military junta bought many of the Chinese aircraft during their 50 years of isolated rule, when they were squeezed by Western sanctions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2017, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 4:12am

Debris from a missing Myanmar military plane carrying around 120 people was found in the Andaman Sea after it went missing Wednesday on a flight from southern Myanmar to Yangon.

“Now they have found pieces of the damaged plane in the sea 136 miles (218 km) away from Dawei city,” said Naing Lin Zaw, a tourism official in Myeik city, adding that the navy was still searching the sea.

The Chinese-made Y-8 turboprop aircraft was carrying about 108 passengers — mostly families of military personnel — and 14 crew members when it went missing.

He said it was raining at the time, but not heavily.

Four naval ships and two air force planes have been sent to search for the plane, which was flying at more than 18,000 feet when contact was lost.

Dawei is a port town an hour’s flight south of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital.

The plane was delivered in March last year and had 809 flying hours.

“We think it was a technical failure. Weather is fine there,” an airport source said, asking not to be named, adding there was no news of the plane so far.

Myanmar’s military fleet has a chequered recent history of plane crashes.

All five crew died when an air force plane burst into flames soon after taking off from the capital Naypyidaw in February last year.

Three army officers were killed in June when their Mi-2 helicopter crashed into a hillside and burst into flames in south-central Bago.

The missing plane is a Y-8F-200 four-engine turboprop, a Chinese-made model still commonly used by Myanmar’s military for transporting cargo.

The former military junta bought many of the aircraft from Myanmar’s giant neighbour during their 50 years of isolated rule, when they were squeezed by Western sanctions.

A former executive at Myanmar’s aviation ministry said it was one of China’s most popular military and civilian transport aircraft.

A surge in demand for air travel as Myanmar opens up has stretched the impoverished country’s aviation infrastructure, in particular in remote airports.

Commercial jets have also suffered frequent incidents.

The worst in recent years was in 2012 when an Air Bagan jet crash-landed in thick fog and burst into flames short of the runway at Heho airport, killing one passenger and a motorcyclist on the ground.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press