JAKARTA (AFP, REUTERS) - Air Asia Indonesia said the pilot of flight QZ8501 that went missing between Indonesia and Singapore early Sunday had requested "deviation" from its flight plan because of bad weather.
"The aircraft... was requesting deviation due to enroute weather," the Malaysia-based carrier said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
"Communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control (ATC)."
Meantime, Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at the Transport Ministry, told a news conference on Sunday that the plane had been flying at 32,000 feet and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds.
He said the aircraft was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island, when it went missing,
"At 6.12 am, the pilot asked Jakarta tower to be allowed to move up to 38,000 feet from 32,000 feet and to fly around a bad cloud. The tower lost contact at 6.17am," Murjatmodjo told a media briefing at Indonesia's main international airport, the Soekarno-Hatta, outside Jakarta.
"The status as per now is 'lost contact' at a location about 100 nautical miles east - a bit south - of Tanjung Pandan, Belitung island. Between Tanjung Pandan and Pontianak, Kalimantan."
The flight was scheduled to land at Changi Airport in Singapore at 8.30am on Sunday.
This is the full statement from AirAsia Indonesia:
AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24 (Surabaya LT) this morning. The flight took off from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya at 0535hours.
The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board.
The captain in command had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours.
There were 155 passengers on board, with 138 adults, 16 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots and 5 cabin crew.
Nationalities of passengers and crew onboard are as below:
3 South Korean
At this time, search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). AirAsia Indonesia is cooperating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way.
The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control (ATC).
The aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on 16 November 2014.
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is: +622129850801.
AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website, www.airasia.com.