Indonesia resumes search on second day

Singapore: Search teams scoured waters off Indonesia’s coast today for an AirAsia jetliner that went missing over the Java Sea with 162 people on board as a rescue official said the plane is suspected to be at the bottom of the sea.

The Singapore-bound Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air-traffic control less than an hour after takeoff from Surabaya, Indonesia, yesterday shortly after requesting to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather.

Indonesia’s search authority said the plane is suspected to be at the bottom of the sea and that it hadn’t detected any signal from the plane’s emergency locator transmitter.

“Based on the coordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea,” Bambang Soelistyo, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency chief told a press conference in Jakarta.

The search was focused on a radius of 270 nautical miles off Indonesia’s Bangka island — a center of tin mining and pepper cultivation south of Singapore — and could be widened, Sulistyo said.

Air force aircraft, naval ships and crew from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are involved in the search and locate operations, according to media reports.

The Indonesia military’s search and rescue team at Manggar in East Belitung have been briefing fishermen of the search area.

Five nations, including India, have offered help in the massive search and rescue operation for the missing plane.

Indonesian air traffic control lost contact with the Airbus A320-200 aircraft at 6.24 am local time as it was flying with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board yesterday.

The six-year-old Airbus A320-200 was flying over the Java Sea in Indonesian airspace when communication with air traffic control ceased about 42 minutes after take-off from Juanda Airport.

The aircraft was to landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 8.30 am. The pilot had asked for a new route minutes before he went off the radio, air traffic control said.

The plane’s last detected position was 100 nautical miles south-east of Tanjung Pandan on Belitung Island.

Indonesian air transportation director Joko Muryo Atmodjo said the plane was flying at 32,000 feet and had requested for a slight change in its flight path by “flying to the left and at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds”.

Belitung Island search and rescue chief Joni Supiardi said his operation centre was activated as soon as the plane was confirmed missing.