AirAsia Plane With 162 Aboard Missing After Call for Course Shift –

Posted: Sunday, December 28, 2014

An AirAsia Indonesia flight carrying 162 people went missing Sunday after the pilot asked for permission to change course due to weather en route from Indonesia to Singapore, officials said.

“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control,” the airline said in a statement.

Officials said the flight lost contact at 7:24 a.m. local time and that search and rescue operations were underway. There was no sign of the plane more than eight hours later.

Indonesia’s acting director general of transportation said there had been no distress signal from the cockpit of the Airbus A320-200.

“We hope we can find the location of the plane as soon as possible, and we hope that God will give us guidance to find it,” Djoko Murjatmodjo told reporters. “We don’t dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact.”

The flight had 155 passengers on board, including 16 children and one infant, and two pilots and five crew members, the airline said. Most on board were Indonesian though there were around six foreigners — including three South Koreans, a French and a British national.

AirAsia said in a statement that the pilot — who has a total of 6,100 flying hours — had asked to change course because of weather.

Image:Trisnadi / AP

“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said, adding that the missing plane last underwent maintenance on Nov. 16.

Airbus confirmed in a statement that the plane was delivered to AirAsia in October 2008 and that it had accumulated about 23,000 flight hours in some 13,600 flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that Indonesia had accepted its offer to assist in search and rescue efforts and requested one C-130 plane for the time being.

Weeping and distraught relatives of passengers flocked to Singapore’s Changi Airport, which set up an area to provide assistance to passengers’ family. The country’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said on Twitter that his “thoughts are with the passengers and their families.”

Tony Fernandes, the head of AirAsia, said he was en route to Indonesia’s city of Surabaya — where most of the passengers were from — and that his thoughts were with the passengers and crew.

The White House said that President Barack Obama was briefed on the disappearance of the flight and monitoring developments. The National Transportation Safety Board is also monitoring developments, but would need an invitation to assist in any investigation.

The loss of contact with the AirAsia flight comes nine months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard on March 8. It has never been found.

Malaysia Airlines sent a message of support amid the ongoing search for the AirAsia flight, saying in a Twitter message on Sunday that its “thoughts and prayers are with all family and friends of those on board.”

— Cassandra Vinograd and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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