Nurfika Osman and Dylan Amirio, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Archipelago | Sun, December 28 2014, 3:29 PM
Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore was reported missing on Sunday morning, Transportation Ministry official Hadi Mustofa said.
The aircraft with 155 people on board, including one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, and three Koreans, and seven crew members lost contact with air traffic control at around 6:17 a.m. local time.
The plane is reported to have requested an unusual route before it lost contact.
AirAsia Indonesia confirmed that contact had been lost with flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore and it said that it would fully cooperate with and assist rescue services.
“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 7:24 this morning,” the airline company said as quoted by ABC News on Sunday.
AirAsia Indonesia added: “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 aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC.
“At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service. AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Center that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is:+622129850801 ,” the airline said.
The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said it was coordinating search and rescue (SAR) operations with SAR offices in Banjarmasin,South Kalimantan; Lampung and Palembang, South Sumatra; Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung; Pontianak, West Kalimantan; and Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands, for the AirAsia flight.
“At 7:30 a.m. local time, the agency’s Indonesia Mission Control Center [IDMCC] received a report that an AirAsia Airbus 320 aircraft serving the Surabaya-Singapore route had lost contact in an area around Kumai Bay at 6:17 a.m.,” said Basarnas as quoted by Antara news agency in a press statement on Sunday.
According to ATC officials at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the last known location of AirAsia flight number QZ8501 was 03.09.15 South and 111.28.21 East. The aircraft should have entered Singaporean air space at 6:52 a.m. local time and was scheduled to arrive at Changi Airport, Singapore, at around 8:30.
The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Bangka Belitung says it has dispatched one vessel to search for AirAsia flight QZ8501.
“We received information from Basarnas in Jakarta that contact had been lost with an AirAsia flight over Bangka Belitung waters at 6:17 a.m. local time. We then dispatched a vessel with a search and rescue team of 22 members to check the information,” Febi Imam Saputra, an information official at Basarnas Bangka Belitung, said as quoted by Antara news agency in Pangkalpinang on Sunday.
He said the Airbus 320 flight was suspected to have lost contact over an area located at 03.22.46 South and 108.50.07 East.
“If we look at the map, these coordinates refer to an area around 20 nautical miles from East Belitung,” said Febi.
He said the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) and the Bangka Belitung air and water police unit (Polrairud Babel) was participating in the search operation.
“TNI AL and Polairud Babel have dispatched one vessel each for the search operation,” said Febi.
The UK government expressed its concern regarding the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore in a statement issued by the British Embassy in Jakarta on Sunday.
One of the 162 passengers onboard was reportedly a British national, the embassy said.
“We are aware of reports of the Air Asia flight QZ 8501 incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and the affected families. We are aware of reports of a British national on board and we are liaising urgently with the local authorities to establish further details,” British Embassy spokesperson Faye Belnis told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
According to the passenger manifest, AirAsia QZ8501 had 149 Indonesian nationals and one Malaysian, one Singaporean, one British and three South Korean citizens on board. The flight had seven crew members.
The families of passengers aboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 have begun to arrive at the AirAsia Crisis Center at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya looking for information about their loved ones.
One family member, identified as Erna W., was quoted by Antara on Sunday as saying that she had four family members on board the missing aircraft. “I hope I can get information soon on the whereabouts of our family members,” she said in tears.
Erna said she had heard about the missing plane from radio and television news reports in Surabaya.
A mood of fear and grief shrouded the AirAsia Crisis Center packed with families desperate for information on the fate of their relatives.
The passenger manifest of AirAsia QZ8501 was hung up inside the crisis center.
State-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) Juanda general manager Trikora Harjo said it would keep all passenger families informed about the latest developments on the missing plane as soon as soon as they became available.
“We believe that all passenger families can get information here at Juanda Airport and they can also contact  8690945,” he said. (ebf)