Indonesian airliner disappears during short flight with 62 on board

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The location of a jet plane carrying 62 people that went missing after leaving the Indonesian capital on Saturday has been located, according to the country’s navy.

Sriwijaya Air SJ182, a domestic flight, took off from Jakarta around 1:56 p.m. local time, losing contact with air traffic controllers at 2:40 p.m., according to Indonesian Transport Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati.

The flight reportedly disappeared from radar just four minutes after the pilot called to climb to an altitude of 29,000 feet.

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A spokesperson for the ministry said Soekarno-Hatta International Airport asked the pilot why the plane was deviating from its intended flight path, heading northwest seconds before disappearing.

Fifty passengers and 12 crew members were on board the flight, all Indonesian nationals, including six additional crew members for a separate trip.

The Indonesian Navy said ships had been sent to the location of the missing plane, although authorities did not say if there might be any survivors.

Indonesian soldiers stand near a crisis center set up following a report that a Sriwijaya Air passenger plane lost contact with air traffic controllers after take off. (AP Photo / Tatan Syuflana)

In a previous statement, Irawati said a dozen ships – four of which are warships – had been deployed between the islands of Lancang and Laki to help.

Sriwijaya Air reported that the Boeing 737-500 airliner was scheduled for a 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province.

Reuters reported on Saturday that Sriwijaya Air chief executive officer Jefferson Irwin Jauwena told reporters the plane was in good condition before taking off.

Boeing, which generally works with investigators in such cases, told Fox News on Saturday it was gathering information about what had happened.

“Our hearts go out to the crew, passengers and their families,” the Chicago-based company said. “We are in contact with our airline customers and are ready to support them during this difficult time. ”

Since the plane was built in the United States, the United States National Safety Transportation Board will also be included in the Indonesian KNKT’s investigation into the incident.

This radar image shows the flight path of Indonesian Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 before it fell off the radar on Saturday, January 9, 2021 (Flightradar24.com via AP)

The Associated Press reported that debris believed to be part of an airplane and clothing was discovered by fishermen on Saturday afternoon in the Thousand Islands, just north of Jakarta.

Bambang Suryo Aji of the National Search and Rescue Agency told reporters that the articles had been turned over to the National Transportation Safety Committee for further investigation.

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This is not the first time that a Boeing 737 has gone missing after taking off from Jakarta.

In October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed in the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. That crash and another month later in Ethiopia led to the global grounding of the MAX, a new iteration of Boeing’s high-speed single-aisle aircraft.

People await news from relatives aboard a Sriwijaya Air passenger plane that lost contact with air traffic controllers after take off from Soepadio International Airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Saturday January 9, 2021 (AP Photo / Helmansyah)
People await news from relatives aboard a Sriwijaya Air passenger plane that lost contact with air traffic controllers after take off from Soepadio International Airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, Saturday January 9, 2021 (AP Photo / Helmansyah)

U.S. regulators have only recently approved the aircraft’s return to commercial flight. The 737-500 is a much older version of the aircraft, introduced in the 1980s.

Like Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s low cost carriers, with flights to domestic and international destinations. The airline group was founded in 2003.

Travis Fedschun of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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