A Chilean C-130 Hercules is presumed to have crashed with 38 people on board during a flight to Antarctica. The aircraft departed from the Chilean capital of Santiago and then made a brief stop in Punta Arenas before leaving for the country’s Antarctic base.
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane around 6 p.m. local time while it was flying over the Drake Passage, the body of the water that separates the southern tip of Chile from Antarctica.
The Chilean Air Force said that there were 17 crew members and 21 passengers, including three civilians on board the aircraft. They were on their way to the base to help repair a floating oil pipeline that supplies the station with fuel.
Officials are combing the area along the plane’s flight path in an effort to locate debris from the aircraft. They said the operation could last up to ten days as they use satellites, boats, and aircraft, so search for the missing plane. The weather conditions in the area can rapidly change and have hampered the search. On Tuesday (December 10), crews were dealing with low visibility and 20-foot waves.
Investigators will not be able to determine the cause of the crash until the plane’s data recorder is located. While the area is known for having severe weather conditions, officials said that there was no bad weather in the forecast when the plane took off.