AirAsia jet vanishes over Indonesia, 162 missing
December 28, 2014, 16:40:26 CET | Wikinews

The missing aircraft, photographed in April. (Image: Oka Sudiatmika.)
An AirAsia Indonesia jet vanished over the Kumai region today. The flight is reportedly carrying 162 people.

Among the 155 passengers and seven crew flying from Surabaya to Singapore are three Koreans, one Malaysian, and one person variously reported as a French or UK national. The rest are Indonesians. There are sixteen children and an infant. The plane was diverting around weather formations over the Java Sea when contact with air traffic control (ATC) in Jakarta was lost.

Local search and rescue have been told the flight last spoke to controllers at 6:12 local time seeking to climb from 32,000ft to 38,000ft. The flight vanished from radar at 6:17. The transponder ceased to be received a minute later. ATC issued a series of escalating alerts in response. It was due to enter Singaporean airspace at 6:52 and land by around 8:30.

The Indonesian Navy, police forces, and National Search and Rescue Agency are focusing on an area 20 nautical miles from East Belitung. The plane went missing in the vicinity of Pulau Belitung Island. A rescue boat with a crew of 22 has been dispatched, with water police providing an additional vessel.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is "ready to provide any assistance to support the search and rescue effort" according to a statement. The Singaporean military has sent two C-130 aircraft to assist. Areas for families and friends have been set up at Changi Airport where the flight was headed and at Juanda International Airport where it departed.

The airline said in a statement they will "keep all parties informed as more information becomes available" about "the status of the passengers and crew members on board". "I hope I can get information soon on the whereabouts of our family members," one weeping woman at Juanda told Antara. She said she has four relatives on board and heard about the disappearance from news reports.

The area where the plane vanished around 40 minutes into its trip was experiencing thunderstorms. Some clouds were as high as 50,000ft. The aircraft, an Airbus A320-200 registration PK-AXC, was six years old. It was undertaking flight designation QZ8501 and last underwent maintenance in November.

Pilot Iriyanto and the co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel have over 8,000 hours experience between them.

"My only thought are with the passengers and my crew" said AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes. He said he is heading to Surabaya and thanked Malaysian, Singaporean, and Indonesian authorities for emergency efforts. Djoko Murjatmodjo, acting head of transportation in Indonesia, said "We don't dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact."

The British Embassy in Jakarta has acknowledged reports a UK citizen may be missing. US President Barack Obama has also been briefed. AirAsia did not include British when listing the nationalities missing, but the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office say a UK victim's next of kin have been informed.

AirAsia is based in Malaysia. 2014 has been a year of air disasters for the country; Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been missing since March with 239 on board and in July Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in Ukraine with 298 casualties. Both involved Boeing 777 aircraft.

AirAsia Emergency Contact Number: +622129850801
Juanda Airport: [031] 8690945

Source: Wikinews
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