Operators lost contact with the aircraft an hour after it departed for a base in Antarctica. Chile's defense minister said chances of finding survivors among the 21 passengers and 17 crew members would be "difficult."
Chile's air force on Tuesday said a military plane that disappeared with 38 people on board while flying to a base in Antarctica had not been heard of for hours. Later, they issued a statement saying that the aircraft must have crashed, given the number of hours it had been missing, though it still had not been located.
The cargo plane, identified as a Hercules C130, departed from the southern city of Punta Arenas at 4:55 p.m. local time (1955 GMT). Operators lost contact with the aircraft a little over an hour later.
"The chances are difficult, but I think it would be profoundly wrong to lose heart at this moment when we are doing everything humanly possible and with all our energy and determination," Defense Minister Alberto Espina said of the ongoing search and rescue effort.
President Sebastian Pinera said he and Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel would fly to Punta Arenas where they would meet up with Espina to monitor a search and rescue mission to locate the missing plane and its passengers.
The air force posted a map on Twitter showing the approximate location of the plane before it went missing.
No emergency signals had been activated on the plane when operators lost contact, General Eduardo Mosqueira of the Fourth Air Brigade told reporters.
He added that the aircraft would have been almost halfway to the base when it went missing and that the pilot had extensive experience.
The personnel on board were flying to the Antarctic base Presidente Frei to check on a floating fuel supply line and other equipment at the Chilean facility.
es, rs/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)