Villagers in eastern Indonesia’s Papua say that a plane which went missing in the province Sunday with 54 people aboard has crashed, an official said Sunday.
“The plane has been found (by villagers). According to residents, the flight had crashed into a mountain. Verification is still in process,” said the transport ministry’s director-general of air transportation, Suprasetyo, who goes by one name.
The Trigana Air Service plane was flying from Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura, to the Papua city of Oksibil when it lost contact with Oksibil’s airport, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata. There was no indication that the pilot had made a distress call, he said.
The ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was carrying 49 passengers and five crew members on the scheduled 42-minute journey, Barata said. Five children, including three infants, were among the passengers.
Local media reports said all the passengers were Indonesians. The airline did not immediately release a passenger manifest.
Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains. Some planes that have crashed there in the past have never been found.
Dudi Sudibyo, an aviation analyst, told AP that Papua is a particularly dangerous place to fly because of its mountainous terrain and rapidly changing weather patterns. “I can say that a pilot who is capable of flying there will be able to fly an aircraft in any part of the world,” he said.
Indonesia has had its share of airline woes in recent years. The sprawling archipelago nation of 250 million people and some 17,000 islands is one of Asia’s most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to provide enough qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport technology to ensure safety.
From 2007 to 2009, the European Union barred Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe because of safety concerns.
Last December, all 162 people aboard an AirAsia jet were killed when the plane plummeted into the Java Sea as it ran into stormy weather on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore.
That disaster was one of five suffered by Asian carriers in a 12-month span, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went missing in March 2014 with 239 people aboard during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Trigana Air Service, which commenced operations in 1991, had 22 aircraft as of December 2013 and flies to 21 destinations in Indonesia.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)