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BW Businessworld

Search On For Missing AirAsia Plane

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Search continued on Monday for the Air Asia flight QZ8501 that went off radar with 162 people on board as a government official said the plane was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast.
"Based on our coordinates, we predict that the plane is on the sea, for now it could be in the bottom of the sea," Bambang Soelistyo, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief, told a press conference in Jakarta.
The search was focused on a radius of 270 nautical miles off Indonesia's Bangka island - a center of tin mining and pepper cultivation south of Singapore - and could be widened, Sulistyo said.
The plane, an Airbus A320-200, left the airport of Surabaya city in East Java at about 5.35 am on Sunday and was scheduled to land at Singapore's Changi Airport at 8:30 am local time.
Air force aircraft, naval ships and crew from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are involved in the search and locate operations.
Singapore sent two naval vessels to help while Malaysia said it would send three naval vessels and a C-130. An Australian P3 Orion surveillance plane left Darwin to join the search.
The flight carrying 155 passengers - one British, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, three South Koreans, 149 Indonesians - and seven crew members - six Indonesians and a French co-pilot - lost contact with air traffic control at 7.24 am local time Indonesia (4.54 am Indian time).
The Indonesia military's search and rescue team at Manggar in East Belitung have been briefing fishermen of the search area.
Some 200 personnel were deployed over 4 sectors in Sunday's search operations.
Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at the Indonesian Transport Ministry, said there was bad weather in the area at the time the aircraft went missing. It had been flying at 32,000 feet before asking to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds.
The loss of contact with the AirAsia plane comes nearly 10 months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 carrying 239 people, including five Indians, that went missing on March 8.
Searchers are yet to find any debris from Flight MH370, which officials believe crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
Another Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.
AirAsia is popular in the region as a budget carrier. It has about 100 destinations, with subsidiaries in several Asian countries.
The AirAsia group, which has affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, has not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.
"This is my worst nightmare," Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said on Twitter.
"This is a massive shock to us...unbelievable," he told a press conference in Surabaya.
The plane was in good condition and had undergone scheduled maintenance in November, he said.