Indonesia has suspended the search for a missing AirAsia plane that disappeared in bad weather en route from Indonesia to Singapore, in the third crisis for a Malaysian carrier this year.
The search halted at 5.30 pm on Sunday (10:30 GMT) as night fell, but was set to resume at 7 am on Monday, or even earlier if the weather was good, Indonesian transport ministry official Hadi Mustofa said.
Last contact: Before going off the radar, the pilot of the plane had asked permission from Jakarta air traffic control for a “deviation” to avoid a thick tuft of clouds
The AirAsia Indonesia airliner, flying from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board, has gone missing.
Flight QZ 8501 lost contact with air traffic control at around 06:20 local time (23:20 GMT) over the Java Sea. The plane, an Airbus A320-200, disappeared midway into the flight of more than two hours from the city of Surabaya. No distress call was made.
Shortly before disappearing, the missing jet had requested a “deviation” from the flight path due to storm clouds, AirAsia said, in an area known for severe thunderstorms.
Indonesia’s transport ministry said the pilot had asked permission from Jakarta air traffic to climb to 38,000 feet (11,000 metres) to avoid thick clouds.
Planes from Indonesia and Singapore had been scouring an area of sea between Kalimantan (Borneo) and Java. No wreckage was found.
The flight left the Indonesian city of Surabaya in eastern Java at 05:20 local time (22:20 GMT) and was due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30 (00:30 GMT).
Dozens of passengers’ relatives have been gathering at Juanda airport in Surabaya and Singapore’s Changi airport to hear news.
Changi airport authorities have set up a holding area for relatives. They said 47 had arrived and care officers and counsellors were on hand to provide support.
A budget airline which owns 49% of AirAsia Indonesia, AirAsia is based in Malaysia and has never lost a plane. Its Chief Executive Tony Fernandes tweeted: “Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We must stay strong.”
Distress year for Malaysia
The year 2014 has been a difficult one for aviation in Asia: Malaysia’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has suffered two losses — flights MH370 and MH17. Flight MH370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 passengers and crew. The wreckage, thought to be in southern Indian Ocean, has still not been located. While flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board. Indonesia President Joko Widodo said his nation was “praying for the safety” of those on board.
>> There were 155 passengers on- board: 138 adults, 16 children and one infant
>> Most aboard were Indonesian; others included a UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans
>> Two pilots and five crew were also aboard: one French, others Indonesian
AirAsia has set up an emergency line for family or friends of those aboard: +622 129 850 801.