A Pawan Hans helicopter with two pilots on board crashed into the Arabian Sea minutes after it took off from an ONGC platform on Wednesday evening, defence sources said.

The Navy and Coast Guard, which launched a search and rescue operation to locate the missing pilots and wreckage, have sighted a door of the aircraft.

Two Immediate Support Vessels of the Navy have reached the area, about 82 nautical miles off south Mumbai coast, sources said. ONGC vessels have also been pressed into service.

Representational image of a Dauphin helicopter. Source: Pawan Hans

The 14-seater VTPWF Dauphin aircraft of 2001-make took off from the ONGC installation at 7:12 PM and contact with it was lost eight minutes later, a top official of the state-run Pawan Hans said.

The pilots have been identified as Captain E Samuel and T K Guha.Since the chopper was not on crew duty, there were no passengers onboard, ONGC Director (offshore) T K Sengupta told PTI.

The Mumbai Mirror reported that Samuel was to retire at the end of November and was conducting a test of his co-pilot’s night-landing skills.

ONGC hires Pawan Hans helicopters to ferry its officials from Mumbai to its offshore oilfield.

A Navy release said the crash occurred during night landing practice.

A Defence Spokesperson tweeted images of the wreckage that had been found so far:

(With inputs from PTI)