All people on board a small aircraft are feared dead after it crashed in a mountainous area of Indonesia, according to officials.

Search-and-rescue teams rushed to the scene on Thursday after the plane, which was carrying 14 adults and four children, crashed while on a local flight in the west of the country.

Rugged terrain and rains hampered searchers trying to reach the wreckage.

The Spanish-designed CASA C-212 was about halfway through its 30-minute flight between North Sumatra and Aceh provinces when it lost contact with air traffic control, Bambang Ervan, a transportation ministry spokesman, said.

Minutes later, the turboprop-powered plane sent out a distress signal and then dropped off the Air Force radar, Bonar Hutagaol, an Air Force marshal, told the local station TVOne.

Residents reported it had crashed near their mountainous village of Bahorok and that they had seen smoke coming from the wreckage, Supri Sinaga, head of the local search and rescue team, said.

"I saw something unusual, a smoking plane circling very low before it disappeared from my view," Agus, a villager in Langkat district, told TVOne.

The sprawling Indonesian archipelago of 240 million people, relies heavily on air transport and has a poor aviation record.

Since  1997, there has been roughly a dozen notable airplane crashes there, with several of them being military plans and helicopers.

A helicopter chartered by US giant Newmont Mining crashed on Sunday in central Indonesia, killing two people on board.

Earlier this month, an Australian and a Slovak pilot were killed when their small Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, which was carrying fuel and food to a remote area in Papua province, went down.

Another small aircraft, which was also transporting supplies to remote villages for a Christian humanitarian association in Papua, crashed last week, killing its US pilot and two passengers.

Source: Agencies