Malaysian plane goes missing with 162 people

Jakarta/Singapore, Dec 28 (IANS) Authorities Sunday launched a major search operation after an AirAsia flight carrying 162 people disappeared while flying from Indonesia to Singapore.

The Malaysian-owned AirAsia aircraft took off at 5.20 a.m. (local time) from the Indonesian city Surabaya and was to land at Singapore’s Changi Airport at 8.30 a.m., the regional media reported.
The plane lost contact with air traffic control somewhere between Kalimantan and Belitung island, an Indonesian transport ministry official said.
He said the aircraft asked for an unusual route before that.
“The weather was not good, it was bad at the estimated location the plane lost contact. We just received a weather report from the national meteorological, geophysics and climatology agency,” the official added.
There were 162 passengers and crew on board with 138 adults, 16 children and one infant, two pilots and five cabin crew.
The nationalities are: 156 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one French, one Malaysian and one Singaporean.
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said his country’s air force C130s and navy ships were on standby, The Straits Times reported.
He said he had conveyed this to Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.
According to AirAsia, the captain of the Airbus A320-200 has a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer 2,275 flying hours.
Singapore’s Changi Airport has set up a holding area to provide assistance to next-of-kin of passengers on the flight.
The incident comes at the end of a disastrous year for Malaysia’s airlines.
National flag carrier Malaysia Airlines lost two aircraft this year. Its flight MH370 went missing March 8 enroute Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board.
On July 17, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.