Jet goes missing over Indonesia
Aircraft and ships that spent several hours searching Indonesian waters turned up no sign of an AirAsia plane that disappeared Sunday with 162 people on board in airspace possibly thick with dense storm clouds, strong winds and lightning, officials said.
Aircraft searching for AirAsia Flight 8501 called off the effort for the night and will resume this morning, said Achmad Toha of Indonesia's search and rescue agency. Some ships were continuing the search overnight, he said.
The plane took off yesterday morning from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, and was about halfway to its destination, Singapore, when it vanished from radar.
The last communication between the pilot and air traffic control was at 6:13 a.m. (2313 GMT on Saturday), when the pilot asked "to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 34,000 feet (10,360 meters)". It was last seen on radar at 6:16 a.m., and a minute later was no longer there, Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia's acting director general of transportation, told reporters.
More than 12 hours later, shocked family members huddled at the Surabaya airport from where the Airbus A320 had taken off, awaiting any news of the jetliner.
No details yet
AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes flew to Surabaya and said at a press conference that that the focus should be on the search and the families.
"We have no idea at the moment what went wrong," said Fernandes, a Malaysian businessman who founded the regional low-cost carrier in 2001. "Let's not speculate at the moment."
It is the third major aviation incident involving Malaysia this year. In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people, and in July, a jet from the same airline was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people aboard.
Indonesia and Singapore launched a search and rescue operation for Flight 8501 near Belitung island in Java Sea, the area where the jetliner lost contact with ground traffic control about 42 minutes after taking off from Surabaya.
Murjatmodjo said there was no distress signal from the cockpit of the twin-engine, single-aisle plane.
Speaking 10 hours after the plane lost contact, Indonesia Vice-President Jusuf Kalla expressed deep concern.
"It is most possible that it has experienced an accident," he said.