JAKARTA, Indonesia — An AirAsia plane with 161 people on board lost contact with ground control on Sunday while flying over the Java Sea after taking off from a provincial city in Indonesia for Singapore, and search and rescue operations were underway.
AirAsia, a regional low-cost carrier with presence in several Southeast Asian countries, said in a statement that the missing plane was an Airbus A320-200 and that search and rescue operations were in progress.
Flight QZ8501 lost communication with Jakarta’s air traffic control at 7:24 a.m. Singapore time (2324 GMT Saturday) about an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore, the Singapore Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The contact was lost about 42 minutes after the single-aisle jetliner took off from Indonesia’s Surabaya airport, Hadi Mustofa, an official of the transportation ministry told Indonesia’s MetroTV.
The plane had six crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, the general manager of Surabaya’s Juanda airport, Trikora Raharjo, told The Associated Press.
There were six foreigners — three South Koreans including an infant and one each from Singapore, Britain and Malaysia, said Raharjo. The rest were Indonesians, he said.
The plane lost contact when it was believed to be over the Java Sea between Kalimantan and Java islands, Mustofa said. He said the weather in the area was cloudy.
The Singapore statement said search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities. It said the Singapore air force and the navy also were searching with two C-130 planes.
Flightradar24, a flight tracking website, said the plane was delivered in September 2008, which would make it six years old. It said the plane was flying at 32,000 feet (9,700 meters), the regular cruising altitude for most jetliners, when the signal from the plane was lost
The Malaysia-based AirAsia, which has dominated cheap travel in the region for years, has never lost a plane before.
This is the third major air incident for Southeast Asia this year. On March 8, Malaysia Airlines flight 370, a wide-bodied Boeing 777, went missing soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It remains missing until this day with 239 people in one of the biggest aviation mysteries. Another Malaysia Airlines flight, also a Boeing 777, was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine while on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17. A total of 298 people on board were killed.