Plane with 10 aboard goes missing in Sulawesi

A photo of the missing aircraft posted by Aviastar on its Twitter page. The airline said the photo was taken yesterday morning. The plane lost contact about 30 minutes before it was due to land.
A photo of the missing aircraft posted by Aviastar on its Twitter page. The airline said the photo was taken yesterday morning. The plane lost contact about 30 minutes before it was due to land.PHOTO: AVIASTAR TWITTER PAGE

JAKARTA • The Indonesian authorities have launched a search for an Aviastar airline Twin Otter turboprop aircraft with 10 people on board that went missing during a domestic flight over Sulawesi island yesterday.

The Transportation Ministry said the aircraft lost contact during a flight from the town of Masamba in North Luwu about 30 minutes before it was scheduled to land in the provincial capital Makassar.

"It was around 60 nautical miles from Makassar," ministry spokesman J.R. Barata told MetroTV.

"We have now started a search. Most importantly, we will work out its position first."

Mr Barata said seven passengers - four adults and three children - and three crew members were on board.

Aviastar, which flies domestic routes, said it had alerted the search authorities after it lost contact with the aircraft in the mid-afternoon.

The head of Indonesia's search- and-rescue agency, Mr Bambang Sulistyo, said rescue efforts were likely to proceed this morning.

"We are still waiting for more detailed information, but me and my team are flying to Masamba tonight," he said.

"It's already dark now, but things can change depending on the latest development."

According to Aviation-safety.net, Aviastar has had four fatal incidents, including the crash of a British Aerospace 146-300 aircraft in the eastern province of Papua in 2009, killing all six crew on board.

Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has had three major air crashes in the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the sea during a flight from Surabaya to Singapore in December, killing all 162 people aboard.

In June, more than 100 people were killed in the crash of a military transport plane in the northern city of Medan, prompting the government to promise a review of the ageing air force fleet.

In August, a Trigana Air aircraft crashed in Papua, killing all 54 people on board.

Struggling to cope with the expansion of air travel, Indonesia scored poorly on a 2014 safety audit by the United Nations aviation agency. Two sources familiar with the matter said the country's Ministry of Transportation was understaffed.

The International Air Transport Association expects Indonesia's fast-growing aviation market to triple in size by 2034.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Plane with 10 aboard goes missing in Sulawesi'. Print Edition | Subscribe