The airline said in a statement that the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. The plane was carrying 50 passengers and 12 crew, all of them Indonesian nationals, including six additional crew members for another trip. Sumadi said a dozen ships, including four warships, had been deployed in the part of a search and rescue operation centered between Lancang Island and Laki Island, part of the Thousand Islands chain just north of Jakarta.
Bambang Suryo Aji, deputy chief of operations and preparedness at the National Search and Rescue Agency, said rescuers collected plane debris and clothing found by fishermen. They turned the items over to the National Transportation Safety Committee for further investigation to determine if they came from the missing plane.
A commander of one of the search and rescue vessels with only one name, Eko, said fishermen found cables and pieces of metal in the water.
“The fishermen told us they found them shortly after hearing an explosion like the sound of thunder,” said Eko quoted by TVOne, adding that aviation fuel was found where the fishermen had found the debris.
Aji said no beacon signal was detected from the 26-year-old plane. He said his agency was investigating why the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, was not transmitting a signal that could confirm if it had crashed.
“The satellite system belonging to neighboring Australia also failed to pick up the missing aircraft’s ELT signal,” Aji said.
Tracking service Flightradar24 said on its Twitter feed that flight SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in elevation in less than a minute, or about four minutes after takeoff.
TV footage showed relatives and friends of people on the plane crying, praying and kissing while they waited at airports in Jakarta and Pontianak.
Chicago-based Boeing said in a statement, “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182. Our hearts go out to the crew, passengers and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and are ready to support them during this difficult time. ”
The twin-engine, single-aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most popular aircraft for short and medium-haul flights. The 737-500 is a shorter version of the widely used 737 model. Airlines first began using this type of aircraft in the 1990s, with production ending two decades ago.
Sriwijaya began operations in 2003 and serves more than 50 destinations in Indonesia and a handful of neighboring countries, according to its website. Its fleet includes a variety of 737 variants as well as the regional ATR 72 twin-engine turboprop aircraft.
The airline has had a strong safety record so far, with no injuries on board in four incidents recorded in the aviation safety network database, although a farmer was killed when a Boeing 737-200 left the track in 2008 due to a hydraulic problem.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with more than 260 million inhabitants, has been plagued by land, sea and air transport accidents due to overcrowding of ferries, aging infrastructure and standards of transportation. poorly enforced security.
In October 2018, a Lion Air-operated Boeing 737 MAX 8 plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved in Saturday’s incident lacked the automated flight control system that played a role in the Lion Air crash and another 737 MAX 8 crash in Ethiopia five months later, resulting in grounding of the MAX 8 for 20 months. .
The Lion Air crash was Indonesia’s worst aviation disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda Airlines flight near Medan on the island of Sumatra. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya in Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.
Indonesian airlines were previously banned from flying to the United States and the European Union for failing to meet international safety standards. The two have since lifted the ban, citing improved aviation safety and greater compliance with international standards.
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