A crew-only area for Indonesian carrier Sriwijaya Air is seen at the Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Tangerang near Jakarta. —AFP/VNA Photo
JAKARTA — An Indonesian budget airline jet is "suspected" to have crashed into the sea just minutes after the Boeing 737 lost contact with air traffic control on Saturday, the country's national search and rescue agency said.
"We deployed our team, boats and sea riders to the location suspected to be where it went down after losing contact," Bambang Suryo Aji, a senior official at the agency, told reporters.
The suspected crash site is near tourist islands just off the coast of Indonesia's sprawling capital Jakarta.
Sriwijaya Air's jet lost contact about four minutes after leaving Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta international airport on its way to Borneo island.
It was unclear how many passengers and crew were aboard Sriwijaya Air's Boeing 737-500, which has a capacity of about 130.
But 62 passengers and crew were listed on an unconfirmed manifest, including seven children and three infants, local media reported.
The usual flight time is about 90 minutes over the Java Sea between Indonesia's main Java island and Kalimantan, the country's section of Borneo island.
Data from FlightRadar24 said the plane reached an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet (3,350 metres) before dropping to 250 feet. It then lost contact with air traffic control.
"Sriwijaya Air flight #SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta," the tracking agency said on its official Twitter account.
Broadcaster Kompas TV quoted local fishermen as saying they had found debris near islands just off the coast of the capital Jakarta, but it could not be immediately confirmed as having belonged to the missing jet.
Indonesia's transport ministry said it was probing the incident.
"A Sriwijaya (Air) plane from Jakarta to Pontianak (on Borneo island) with call sign SJY182 has lost contact," said ministry spokesman Adita Irawati.
"It last made contact at 2:40pm (0740 GMT)."
The budget airline, which has about 19 Boeing jets that fly to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, said only that it was investigating the loss of contact.
Indonesia's search and rescue agency and the National Transportation Safety Commission were also investigating, Irawati said.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet slammed into the Java Sea about 12 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.
That crash -- and a subsequent fatal flight in Ethiopia -- saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the two deadly crashes.
However, Indonesia's aviation sector has long suffered from a reputation for poor safety, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace.
In 2014, an AirAsia plane crashed with the loss of 162 lives.
Domestic investigators' final report showed a chronically faulty component in a rudder control system, poor maintenance and the pilots' inadequate response were major factors in what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. — AFP