An AirAsia flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control after take-off, the airline has said, as a search-and-rescue operation kicked off in the third air incident connected to Malaysia's aviation industry.
AirAsia, a regional low-cost carrier with presence in several Southeast Asian countries, said in a statement that the missing plane was an Airbus A320-200 with 162 people on board, and was supposed to land in Singapore at 8:30am local time on Sunday.
- Flight QZ8501 was en route to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia when contact was lost
- 162 people were on board, including five crew and two pilots
- Among the passengers were 16 children and an infant
- Pilots had requested change in flight path due to bad weather
- 149 Indonesians were on board
- A Singaporean, a Malaysian, a Briton, a French national and three South Koreans were also on board
Flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers, most of them Indonesians, AirAsia said in a statement. Sixteen children and one infant were among the passengers. The plane had an Indonesian captain and a French co-pilot and five cabin crew.
"At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available," the Malaysia-based airline said in a statement on Facebook.
The statement added that the pilots requested "deviation due to en route weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control [ATC]".
The airline said it had established an emergency call centre for family or friends of those who were travelling on the aircraft.
There was no distress signal from the cockpit when the plane disappeared from radar, Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia's acting director general of transportation, told reporters.
AirAsia had a good safety track record and had never lost a plane before.
The aircraft lost contact with the Jakarta air traffic control tower at 6:17am (2317 GMT) local time, Hadi Mustofa, Indonesia's transport ministry official, told reporters.
The flight had been due in Singapore at 8:30am (0030 GMT). The Singapore airport said on its website the status of the flight was "delayed".
Joint search effort
Singapore Civil Aviation Authority said Singapore air force and navy had joined the search effort with two C-130 planes.
"It is more than likely that the plane has gone down, seeing that with a relatively short flight of 2.5 hours, four hours endurance is the likely amount of fuel it had on board," Ron Bartsch, a Sydney-based aviation consultant, told Al Jazeera.
"It is very early in the situation and obviously a very grave situation at this stage," he added.
Flightradar24, a flight tracking website, said the plane was delivered in September 2008, which would make it six years old.
It said the plane was flying at 32,000 feet, the regular cruising altitude for most jetliners, when the signal from the plane was lost.
The incident comes at the end of a disastrous year for Malaysia's airlines.
National carrier Malaysia Airlines lost two aircraft this year.
Its Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
On July 17, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies