A small passenger airplane carrying 10 people disappeared in eastern Indonesia shortly after takeoff on Friday, officials said, in the country’s latest aviation mishap.
The de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft, operated by Aviastar, a regional carrier, vanished from radar within minutes of taking off at 2:25pm from Masamba, a town in South Sulawesi province. It was en route to Makassar, the provincial capital, Aviastar commercial general manager Petrus Budi said.
Petrus said the last contact authorities had with the aircraft was 11 minutes after takeoff, when the pilots radioed to controllers in Makassar to advise them that they had reached an altitude of 2,438m.
“They said they would check in again about 40 minutes outside of Makassar, but never did,” Petrus said, adding that the flight was supposed to arrive at about 3:40pm.
Indonesian Ministry of Transportation spokesman A.J. Barata on Friday evening said that authorities did not know whether the airplane had crashed.
“It’s missing, and we’re giving notice to other aircraft that may be flying that route” in case they spotted the airplane, Barata told a news conference in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
The airplane was carrying seven passengers and three crew members, he said.
According to Aviastar’s Web site, the regional carrier has been operating since 2003 and has commercial and charter routes in the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and Bali.
Indonesia has had numerous commercial and military air disasters in recent years, including three crashes since December last year that killed a total of 359 people.
Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency at dawn yesterday was to begin an aerial search along the aircraft’s last known flight path, agency command center duty officer Setiono said.
He said 30 personnel had been deployed to the region in preparation for a ground search once the airplane is spotted.
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