A passenger plane with more than 60 people on board lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after taking off from Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, on Saturday, January 9, 2021, a Transport Ministry spokesperson said.
Authorities launched a search-and-rescue operation after Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182 went missing over the Java Sea minutes after it took off for Pontianak, the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, said Adita Irawati, an adviser to the minister of transportation.
She added that 50 passengers and 12 crew were aboard.
Tracking service Flightradar24 said on its Twitter feed that the plane “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta.”
The aircraft is a 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, according to registration details included in the tracking data, Flightradar24 added.
“There has been a lost contact with the Sriwijaya aircraft on the route from Jakarta to Pontianak with the SJY 182 call sign,” said Irawati, who added that the plane was last heard from at 2.40 p.m. local time (2:40 a.m. ET).
Yusuf Latief, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency, Basarnas, told NBC News that ships had been dispatched to the Thousand Islands area, a chain north of the Jakarta coast, where the plane is thought to have lost contact.
Sriwijaya Air said in a statement that it was “still in contact with various related parties to get more detailed information,” and that “management is still communicating and investigating this matter.”
The airline is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea, and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure, and poorly enforced safety standards.
It is the second air crash off the coast of Indonesia in just over two years. A Boeing 737 Max operated by the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed off Jakarta in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew.
David Sidman, director of communications at Boeing said in a statement that the company was “aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation.”
“We are working to gather more information,” he said.
Boeing agreed on Thursday to pay $2.5 billion to settle a U.S. Justice Department investigation and admit that employees misled regulators about the safety of its 737 Max aircraft, which suffered two deadly crashes shortly after entering airline service.