Lithuanian plane, two pilots missing over Baltic Sea
A Lithuanian-registered An-2 plane that went missing on its way from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Lithuania on Saturday, with two pilots aboard, has still not been located.
The Klaipėda Airlines plane disappeared from the radar 97 nautical miles off the coast of Latvia. It was scheduled to land in Lithuania at 17:20 on Saturday, but lost contact with the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Center at 16:16.
The plane is reported to have been in good condition and both pilots, Adolfas Mačiulis and Alvydas Selmistraitis, were both over 60 years of age and had more than 15,000 hours of flight experience.
This is the first time a civil aircraft has gone missing over the Baltic Sea.
Lithuanian, Latvian and Swedish helicopters, aircraft and ships were deployed to the area on Saturday evening and search efforts continued on Sunday, until the operation was suspended due to adverse weather conditions and no sign of the plane in the initial search area. Lithuanian Tribune reports that the rescue services are currently deciding whether to continue search of the missing plane.
"If we decide to continue with the search operation, it is hard to tell how purposeful it will be, because the area is huge," Lithuanian Navy spokesman, Antanas Bencius, told Lithuanian National Radio and Television this morning. "We should now be searching not just in Latvia's [territorial waters], but further north as well."
"The search area is expanding every hour. We started in a smaller patch, but wind could have taken the objects north," Bencius said, adding that by now, the search area could be expanded to cover half the Baltic Sea.
Moreover, Alvydas Šumskas, head of the Lithuanian civil aviation authority, said that even if rescuers manage to locate the crash site of the plane, there is no point in trying to recover it. "These types of planes are not equipped with black boxes. Just a simple manograph that records altitude. It won't contribute anything to an investigation into what happened," The Lithuanian Tribune reports him as saying.