|An Air Asia flight travelling from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control, Metro TV reported on Sunday. - ST File Photo
JAKARTA -- AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore is believed to have crashed at the location 03.22.46 South and 108.50.07 East, in waters around 145 kilometers from Belitung, a National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) official has said.
Basarnas Pangkalpinang spokesperson Supriandi said, as reported by Antara news agency on Sunday, that it had dispatched a rescue team to Belitung, an island on the east coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
It is believed that the Airbus A320 had circled over the sea near Belitung to avoid a storm before it experienced severe turbulence and crashed into the ocean. QZ8501 is reported to have had 162 on board, 16 of which were children.
The AirAsia Indonesia plane lost contact with air traffic control on Sunday morning, after the pilot of flight QZ8501 requested "deviation" from its flight plan because of bad weather.
The Airbus A320-200 has 155 passengers and seven crew members on board. The passengers include 149 Indonesians, one Singaporean, one British, one Malaysian and three Koreans. The last position of missing plane is believed to be somewhere between Belitung island and Kalimantan in Indonesia.
No distress signal was sent, said the Indonesian air transport authorities.
The plane left Juanda international airport in Surabaya in east Java at 5.35am (Indonesia time) and was expected to arrive in Singapore at 8.30am (Singapore time). The plane lost contact with air traffic control at 7.24am (Indonesia time). Indonesia is one hour behind Singapore.
"AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24 (Surabaya LT) this morning. The flight took off from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya at 0535hours," the airline said in a statement issued at about 1.30pm.
The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control," it added.
Search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority, said the airline, adding that it is cooperating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way.
The aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on Nov 16. The captain in command had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours, said the airline.
Mr Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at the Transport Ministry, told a news conference that the aircraft was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island, when it went missing.
"We are coordinating with rescue team and looking for its position. We believe it is somewhere between Tanjung Pandan, a town on Belitung island, and Kalimantan," AFP quoted Indonesia's air transportation director-general Djoko Murjatmodjo as saying.
Airforce spokesman Marsma Hadi Tjahjanto confirmed that the air force was using the last point of contact to conduct an air search. He said the air force radar recorded the weather at the time as cloudy, Sydney Morning Herald reported.
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre for family or friends of those who may have been on board the flight. The number is +622 1298-50801. -- The Jakarta Post/The Straits Times/ANN