In a dreadful development, an Indonesian airline has lost contact in minutes after taking off from Jakarta airport on Saturday. The airliner that belongs to Sriwijaya Air was airlifted from Jakarta to Pontianak in West Kalimantan province on Saturday with over 60 people on board.
Shortly after the takeoff, the airline had lost its contact with air traffic controllers which shocked the authorities and pushed them to identify the missing plane and to rescue the people on board. A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak and the aircraft carried 56 passengers including seven children and three infants, and six crew members on board.
Indonesian Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said that Boeing 737-500 took off from Jakarta at about 1.56 pm and lost contact with the control tower at 2.40 pm. The missing plane is currently under investigation and under coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transporation Safety Committee, Irawati said in a statement.
The ministry has deployed search and rescue operations are underway to locate the missing flight. According to Reuters, flight tracker Flightradar24 said that Flight SJ182 lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about four minutes after departure from Jakarta. Sriwijaya Air said in a statement that it has still been gathering more detailed information regarding the flight before it can furnish a complete statement.
According to local media, fishermen found what appeared to be the wreckage of an aircraft in waters north of Jakarta and a search was underway and other channels had also surfaced pictures of what have been suspected to be wreckage. These developments had signaled that the airplane could have been met with an accident on air and drowned in the waters. A security official told CNN Indonesia that they had found some cables, pieces of metal, and a piece of jeans on the water.
The missing aircraft is a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 and Indonesia has been frequently witnessing such aircraft accidents. In 2018, a Lion Air flight (Boeing 737 Max 8) crashed into the Java Sea in less than 15 minutes after taking off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta and all 189 passengers and crew in the flight were killed. In 2014, AirAsia flight 8501 (An Airbus A320) crashed into the Java Sea due to bad weather and the accident had killed all 155 persons on board.
The reports say that the plane that lost contact on Saturday is a much older model. The country's aviation safety commission said that it was on alert and that the transportation minister had gone to the international airport in Jakarta. Patrol boats were heading to waters northwest of Jakarta where the plane was last seen, the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said.
It must be noted that the aviation sector in Indonesia has long been plagued by trouble with poor safety records and the rapid growth of budget airlines. Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia's budget and discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations. The television footage from the ground had shown the friends and relatives of people aboard the missing plane breaking out of tears, praying, and hugging each other at Jakarta and Pontianak's airport after learning that the plane has lost contact.