Trigana Air Service Flight Missing In Indonesia With 54 Passengers Aboard
A Trigana Air Service flight went missing in Indonesia Sunday morning after the plane lost contact with air traffic control over the mountainous province of Papua, according to USA Today. The plane was traveling from Jayapura, the provincial capital, to Oksibil on Papua, the country's largest province, with 54 passengers. The Transportation Ministry said in a statement that the ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane was about 33 minutes into its 42-minute journey when it lost contact. There was no indication of a distress call, said the ministry's spokesman, J.A. Barata, according to CNN. Update: Wreckage from the missing Trigana air plane was found among the mountains in a remote region of Papua near Oksibil, according to BBC News.
The plane lost contact at 2:55 p.m. local time and was supposed to land at 3:16 p.m., officials told CNN. Barata said officials haven't yet confirmed whether the plane has crashed and that search efforts were called off because of bad weather and because it's now dark in Indonesia. The plane was carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and infants, and five crew members, according to BBC News. Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency said the search would be resumed in the morning at 6 a.m. local time, Monday.
CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo said the lack of a distress call doesn't necessarily mean the plane was never in distress. Rather, it could just mean that the crew was too busy dealing with whatever happened to send one, or that it was too late once they realized they were in trouble. Officials said weather was clear when the plane took off in Jayapura, but CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said there were a few thunderstorms in the plane's flight path over Papua's mountainous region. Trigana Air director of operations Beni Sumaryanto said the airline "strongly suspect[s]" that this was a weather issue and not a problem from overcapacity, according to BBC News:
Oksibil is a mountainous area where weather is very unpredictable. It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning.
Aviation safety analyst David Soucie said coordinating the search in such steep, unpredictable terrain will be difficult, according to CNN:
Because of the terrain, you have problems with radio frequencies, so the communications between the search teams themselves can be very troubling. You first start searching in those areas that are the most survivable. You'd be looking for a place that the aircraft may have tried to land, so that narrows it down quite a lot.
Trigana Air has been on the European Union's banned blacklist for airlines since 2007. All but four of Indonesia's airlines are on the list, according to BBC News. Just in the last year, there have been two major crashes among major Indonesian airlines. The European Commission said Indonesia's airlines made its blacklist "because they are found to be unsafe and/or they are not sufficiently overseen by their authorities," according to CNN.