Search Stepped up for Urals Joyride Aircraft

More than 1,000 people have been involved in the massive search operation for a light plane hijacked by a party of revellers from an airfield in the Urals last week, emergency officials said on Monday.

Those involved include local fishermen and tourists, the Emergencies Ministry said, with six aircraft also being used to search for the Antonov An-2 biplane, which was reported missing from an airfield in the town of Serov on June 11.

Pilot Khatib Kashapov and 12 revelers, including the town’s chief of traffic police, were on board the An-2, which was being used to spot forest fires, regional police said.

Russia’s air transport agency, Rosaviatsia, also asked military aircraft to help in the search for the missing plane, a senior Air Force official said.

“Rosaviatsia executives have appealed to me for help,” Air Force Maj-Gen Viktor Sevostyanov told reporters in Yekaterinburg.

There has been no response to calls to revellers’ mobile phones. The men had been drinking and decided either to go on a fishing trip or to have a steam bath, police said.

The aircraft had been used “almost daily” for illegal flights, the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid reported on Monday, citing a source close to a police inquiry into the incident.

Pilot Kashapov, who was also believed to be drunk, is thought to have had only a compass on him when he steered the plane out of the Serov airfield, the source said, adding that the plane might have crashed in a wooded area some 100 away.


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