Search and rescue agency says aircraft is operated by Trigana Air Service and carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and five crew
An Indonesian domestic passenger aircraft carrying 54 people is thought to have crashed after losing contact with air traffic control in the country’s remote eastern Papua region.
The plane was flying between Jayapura’s Sentani airport and Oksibil, the capital of Papua province.
Transport ministry spokesman Julius Barata said the ATR 42-300 twin turboprop lost contact with the airport nine minutes before it was scheduled to land.
The search and rescue agency tweeted to say the aircraft was operated by Trigana Air Service and carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and five crew members.
Aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman said there were several indications the missing Trigana flight had crashed, including the amount of fuel the plane was carrying.
He said the plane would have run out of fuel by 5.51p.m Papuan time. “If it has not landed somewhere now, it has crashed somewhere, that’s for sure,” Soejatman said.
When the ATR 42-300 plane lost contact with air traffic control, an aircraft was sent to search for it but returned to Jayapura as darkness fell.
The Trigana plane is still classified as missing, but police are working to verify reports from eyewitnesses, dispatching search parties and troops to look for the wreckage.
“There are a number of eyewitnesses who have said they saw the plane crash in the valley before the airport,” Soejatman said.
A local helicopter operator has also been alerted by the airline to prepare its rescue hoists in anticipation that it will be asked by Indonesia’s search and rescue agency to undertake a recovery or search and rescue operation as early as Monday morning.
Trigana, a local airline founded in 1991, operates in challenging regions of the Indonesian archipelago, often in small and remote areas such as West Papua.
“It’s mountainous, very remote and the airfield runways are sometimes on the side of a hill so it is not really an area for the faint-hearted to fly,” Soejatman said. “There are bound to be accidents.”
Trigana has had 14 serious incidents since it began operations in 1991, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s online database. Excluding this latest incident, it has written off 10 aircraft.
The airline has been on the EU list of banned carriers since 2007. Those on the list cannot operate in European airspace because of concerns about either their safety standards, or the standard of regulation in their home country.
Trigana operates aircraft with 10 ATR planes and four Boeing 737 that are an average of 26.6 years old.
Indonesia, a country of 250 million people and made up of about 17,000 islands, is one of Asia’s fastest-growing aviation markets but has a poor air safety record. It struggles to provide enough qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport technology to ensure adequate safety levels.
In January an AirAsia Airbus A320 flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore crashed into the Java sea, killing all 162 people on board. The crash prompted the Indonesian government to introduce regulations aimed at improving safety.
Last month Indonesia’s president promised a review of the ageing air force fleet after a military transport plane crashed in the north of the country, killing more than 100 people.
Read more at theguardian