Indonesian search and rescue authorities are resuming a search for a passenger plane which plunged into the ocean minutes after taking off from Jakarta airport.
Items which appear to come from an aircraft have already been found in the Java Sea, in the area of the Thousand Islands. The search will begin Sunday at first light.
Authorities have revealed that within seconds of the plane’s pilot asking for permission to climb higher after take off, the plane appeared to go in the wrong direction then vanish from radar.
There was no mayday or distress call and no signal from an emergency locator transmitter was received. Indonesian authorities said Australian satellites had also not registered any signal.
Indonesian Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the flight took off at 2.36pm and at 2.37pm the pilot then asked for air traffic control permission to climb higher and this was granted.
“The air traffic control at Soekarno Hatta saw the plane was not going to 075 degrees but going to the northwest.
“Air traffic control asked why they were going to the northwest and within seconds the aircraft was gone from radar.”
“At 2.40pm, in seconds, SJY 182 was gone from radar,” Budi said.
The Sriwijaya Air plane with 62 people on board had taken off in heavy rain and had been delayed for an hour due to the weather.
In a statement, Sriwijaya Air said the plane was on a 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island.
It was carrying 50 passengers and 12 crew members, all Indonesian nationals, including six extra crew for another trip.
A dozen vessels, including four warships, were deployed in a search-and-rescue operation centred between Lancang island and Laki island, north of Jakarta.
Solihin, 22, a fisherman from Lancang Island, said he and two other fishermen heard an explosion about 30 meters from them.
“We thought it was a bomb or a tsunami since after that we saw the big splash from the water after the explosion,” he said.
“It was raining heavily and the weather was so bad. So it is difficult to see around clearly.
“But we can see the splash and a big wave after the sounds. We were very shocked and directly saw the plane debris and the fuel around our boat.”
Plane manufacturer Boeing said it was aware of reports from Jakarta regarding flight SJ-182.
“Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families,” the company said in a statement.
Sriwijaya Air’s chief executive Jefferson Irwin Jauwena told reporters the plane had been in good condition.
Tracking service Flightradar24 said on its Twitter feed that Flight SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than a minute, about four minutes after take-off.
Indonesia, a nation of 17,000 islands, has a chequered air safety history.
Two years ago an Indonesian Lion Air flight crashed into the sea soon after take-off from Jakarta airport.
The Lion Air flight was a Boeing 737 MAX 8 which crashed 13 minutes after take-off on October 29, 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
The Lion Air plane was a much newer plane than the Sriwijaya aircraft.
– with Reuters