Bad weather halts search for missing Indonesian plane

Bad weather conditions hinder search efforts for missing Indonesian domestic plane with 10 people onboard

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Henry Bambang Soelistyo holds a map showing search coordinates for a missing Aviastar plane during a news conference in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province October 3, 2015.

Bad weather conditions halted an air and ground search on Saturday afternoon for a domestic 10-people plane that went missing in eastern Indonesıa, Aviastar's flight operation officer, Ferdinand Lumintaintang, reported.

Lumintaintang said searches stopped for the day as weather conditions "didn't support our efforts. The clouds were thick."

However, ground search operations would continue until night, he added.

The DHC-6 Twin Otter plane, owned by the private Aviastar Mandiri airline, lost contact with air traffic controllers 11 minutes after take off on Friday from Masamba in South Sulawesi Province, Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata reported, emphasising that no distress signal was received.

He added that three crew members and seven passengers, including three children, were onboard the plane.

Four aircraft were assigned to help in the search for the missing plane, Petrus Budi Prasetyo, commercial general manager for the airline, stated.

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

In addition, more than 160 personnel, including 120 soldiers, were deployed to assist in a ground search, said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency.

Soelistyo reported that the search was focusing on a 24-kilometer radius from where the plane last made contact.

Ahmad Munir, head of the airport authority in Makassar, added that satellite data showed the aircraft's last registered position was about 32 kilometers from the capital.

Prasetyo reported that this particular plane is a 1981 Canadian-made plane which joined Aviastar in January and was subjected to its most recent maintenance on September 15.

Indonesia, a chain of island nations of about 250 million people, has been disturbed by a series of transportation accidents within recent years, with three major crashes taking place only this year.

On December 28, an AirAsia flight sunk in the sea between Surabaya and Singapore, leading to the deaths of all 162 people aboard.

In addition, 54 people aboard a passenger airliner were killed when another plane crashed in Papua In August.

A military transport plane in the northern city of Medan crashed in June, leading to the deaths of more than 100 people, which prompted Indonesia's government to promise to review its ageing air force fleet.

TRTWorld and agencies