A transport plane of the Indian Air Force with 29 people on board went missing today while flying from Chennai to Port Blair.

The AN-32 aircraft took off at 0830 hours from Tambaram in Chennai and the last contact with it was made 16 minutes later, defence sources said. It was to have landed around 11.20 am.

The aircraft can fly for up to four hours without refuelling.

A massive search operation has been launched by the IAF, Navy and the Coast Guard, sources said.The Navy has launched surveillance aircraft to look for the missing plane in the Bay of Bengal.

A Dornier aircraft has also been sent and four ships, Karmukh, Gharial, Jyoti and Kuthar have been diverted to the region at full speed.

Some reports claim that bad weather could have played a role in the aircraft going off the radar.

The aircraft is reported to have had some minor problems this month. The plane, which has an endurance of over four hours, has an emergency beacon locator, which usually gets activated if there is a crash. The navy submarine has been sent to track any underwater transmission from the locator.

Flying with the call sign AF-330, the aircraft was part of the 33 Squadron which is based in Sulur. The last crash involving an AN32 was in 2009 in which the aircraft went down soon after taking off from the Machuka advanced landing ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh.

The AN 32 is the main workhorse of IAF to ferry troops and supplies to forward areas. It has had a relatively good flight safety record, with the last major crash being recorded in Delhi in 1999, which killed 21 people.