AirAsia Flight QZ-8501 has gone missing on Saturday night, going from Indonesia to Singapore.
The Airbus A320 plane was traveling from Surabaya to Singapore when it lost contact with air traffic control, an Indonesian Transport Ministry official told Reuters’ Trust.org. The Ministry said officials lost contact with the plane Sunday morning after 6 a.m. local time.
Meanwhile, Indonesian media have reported that plane crashed near Belitung Timur, but it’s not clear if it’s Flight QZ-8501.
UPDATE at 12 p.m. ET: Sunu Widyatmoko, CEO of AirAsia Indonesia, issued a statement on the incident on Sunday morning: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this incident. We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident. In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments.”
“We will do everything possible to support them as the investigation continues and have already mobilized a support team to help take care of their immediate needs, including accommodation and travel arrangements. A briefing center has also been set up in Surabaya for the families.”
The ministry said the plane asked for an unusual route before it lost contact. The aircraft has 162 people on board–including passengers and crew.
A search is currently underway for the plane, AirAsia announced through social media. The Singapore Air Force and Navy activated two C-130 planes to search for the missing plane.
A press conference is slated for 12 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said after reports came in: “I don’t have much details yet, but big possibility that a tragedy has occurred.”
AirAsia, which has a presence in most of Southeast Asia and recently India, has never lost a plane before and has a good safety track record.
“We don’t dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact.” Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia’s acting director general of transportation, told reporters. He said the last communication between the pilot and air traffic control was at 6.13 a.m. (2313 GMT Saturday) when the pilot “asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 34,000 feet.”
He said there was no distress signal from the cockpit.
The contact was lost about 42 minutes after the single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner took off from Surabaya airport, Hadi Mustofa, an official of the transportation ministry told Indonesia’s MetroTV. It was about an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore at 0030gmt.
The plane had two pilots, five cabin crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, AirAsiaIndonesia said in a statement. Indonesian officials had earlier said there were 161 people on board.
The AirAsia statement said there were six foreigners on board— three South Koreans and one each from Singapore, Malaysia and France. The rest were Indonesians.
AirAsia issued a statement on Facebook about the missing plane:
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 aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board.
The captain in command had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours
There were 155 passengers on board, with 138 adults, 16 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots and 5 cabin crew.
Nationalities of passengers and crew onboard are as below:
3 South Korean
At this time, search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). AirAsia Indonesia is cooperating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way.
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 (ATC).
The aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on 16 November 2014.
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is: +622129850801.
AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website, www.airasia.com.
Singapore’s aviation agency also issued a statement:
28 December 2014, 11:30am Local Time:- An Indonesia AirAsia aircraft, QZ8501, scheduled to arrive at 0830 hours local time from Surabaya, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 0724 hours local time today. Singapore air traffic control was informed of this loss of contact at 0754 hours by Jakarta air traffic control. The aircraft was in the Indonesian Flight Information Region (FIR) when contact was lost, more than 200 nm southeast of the Singapore-Jakarta FIR boundary.
Search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities from the Pangkal Pinang Search and Rescue office.
The Singapore Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC), managed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and supported by various agencies, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), has also been activated and has offered help to the Indonesian authorities. Two C130s are already on stand-by for this purpose. We remain ready to provide any assistance to support the search and rescue effort.
The CAAS and Changi Airport Group (CAG) Crisis Management Centres have already been activated. We are working with the airline’s crisis management team.
A waiting area, and all necessary facilities and support have been set up for relatives and friends of the affected passengers at Changi Airport Terminal 2 (Level 3).
Further updates will be provided once more information is available.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.