Last updated: 10:21 PM ET, Sat October 03 2015

Search is On For Missing Indonesian Passenger Plane

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | October 03, 2015

Search is On For Missing Indonesian Passenger Plane

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A small passenger plane with 10 aboard has gone missing over eastern Indonesia, and a search by air and ground is underway, the Associated Press reported.

Owned and operated by the private Aviastar Mandiri airline, the DHC-6 Twin Otter prop plane was 11 minutes into a flight Friday from Masamba in South Sulawesi province to the provincial capital of Makassar when air traffic controller lost contact, Transportation Ministry spokesperson Julius Barata told the AP.

Three crewmembers and seven passengers, including three children, were on the flight when it disappeared in good weather, Barata said to the AP.

Petrus Budi Prasetyo, commercial general manager for Aviastar revealed to the AP that the Canadian-built plane was built in 1981 and became part of the airline’s fleet last January. He added that the most recent maintenance was conducted Sept. 15.

Prasetyo outlined the search from the air to the AP. "We have dispatched a Twin Otter and a helicopter to comb the area, along with an aircraft each from the military and police," he said. "But we have not yet received any information from the scene."

On the ground, over 160 personnel, including 120 soldiers, are on the hunt for the missing aircraft, said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency, via the AP.

According to the AP, Soelistyo said the team was focusing on a 15-mile radius from the point of last contact. Ahmad Munir, head of the airport authority in Makassar, said to the AP that satellite data indicated that the Aviastar airliner’s last known position was about 20 miles from Masamba.

An update from Reuters stated that bad weather was hampering search efforts. Ferdinand Lumintaintang, Aviastar's flight operation officer, told Reuters that searching ended for the day, as weather “didn’t support our efforts. The clouds were thick." He did say that land search operations would continue until nightfall.

The Jakarta Globe reported that Sulawesi police had detected a cell phone signal from one of the crew, and were “optimistic” the plane would be located soon.

In light of such recent Indonesian airline tragedies as August’s Trigana Air Service crash that killed all 54 aboard, and since this latest incident is most likely a crash as well, the AP noted that Indonesia is “one of Asia's most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to obtain qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and modern airport technology.”


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