Tue, Jan 09, 2007 - Page 5 News List

US Navy joins Indonesian jet search

LOST PLANEWith no emergency location signal to guide them, more than 3,600 soldiers and police have searched Sulawesi's dense jungles and surrounding sea


US experts were studying satellite images of Sulawesi yesterday for signs of a jetliner that disappeared a week ago with 102 people on board, an embassy official said.

A sonar-equipped US Navy ship headed to the area to take part in the search, while Indonesian officials simulated possible crash scenarios over the western coastal town of Majene, where the Boeing 737 last made contact before falling off the radar.

"Today we will try to determine how far the plane could have glided if it had experienced engine failure," said Eddy Suyanto, who is heading the search effort.

The Adam Air plane left Java for the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado on New Year's day, but experienced 130kph winds and storms halfway through the two-hour flight, forcing it to change course at least twice, officials said.

The pilot did not issue a mayday or report technical problems.

With no emergency location signal to guide more than 3,600 soldiers, police and volunteers searching in the island's dense jungles and surrounding seas, teams have fanned out over a nearly 80,000km2 area.

Indonesia has said it welcomes all international assistance in the search.

Singapore has been providing aerial surveys and a US National Transportation Safety Board team arrived on Friday, along with representatives from Boeing, the US Federal Aviation Administration and General Electric, to help investigate.

A US Navy sonar-equipped ship was expected to arrive in Makassar's port by today to help search nearby waters, said US embassy spokeswoman Shannon Quinn. Satellite imagery of the island is also being analyzed in the US.

Three Americans, a man from Oregon and his two daughters, were among the plane's 96 passengers. It is not clear if any other foreigners were on board.

A day after the plane disappeared, authorities wrongly said they found the jet's charred wreckage and that there were 12 survivors, causing anguish for family members.

Lucky Setiandika, whose wife of only two months was on the plane, has been included in several aerial surveys over remote mountainous terrain.

"Where are you? I'm here, please give me a sign," he mumbled as he scanned the thick vegetation with tears in his eyes.

"I still believe my wife is alive," he said.

Adam Air is one of about 30 budget carriers that sprang up in Indonesia after the industry was deregulated in 1998.

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