Relatives of the passengers of AirAsia flight QZ8501 comfort each other at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. The AirAsia plane with 161 people on board lost contact with ground control on Sunday after taking off from a provincial city in Indonesia for Singapore, and search and rescue operations were underway.
An AirAsia Indonesia flight carrying 162 people from Indonesia to Singapore went missing Sunday, after the pilot asked for permission to change course due to weather, the airline said.
“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24hrs this morning,” the airline said in a statement.
The flight was scheduled to land at 8:30 a.m. local time, a spokesman for Singapore’s Changi Airport said. AirAsia announced the flight’s disappearance on its Facebook page about three hours after the plane was scheduled to arrive.
The plane had 155 passengers on board, including 16 children and one infant, and two pilots and five crew members, the airline said. Most on board were Indonesian. There were three South Koreans on the plane and one each from Singapore, Britain and Malaysia.
The airline said in a statement that the pilot had asked to change course because of weather. The plane had undergone its last maintenance on Nov. 16, AirAsia Indonesia said.
“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said.
An airport official checks a map of Indonesia at the crisis center set up by local authority for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Sunday.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said it was notified 7:54 a.m., about half an hour after the jet was lost, it said in a statement.
“Search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities,” the agency said, adding that it has placed two C-130 planes on stand-by to help in the search. “We remain ready to provide any assistance to support the search and rescue effort.”
Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, expressed his grave concerns on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the passengers and their families,” he said.
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the disappearance of the flight and is monitoring developments, a spokesman for the White House said. The National Transportation Safety Board is also monitoring developments, but would need an invitation to assist in any investigation.
The captain of the plane had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours, the airline said.
Changi Airport set up an area to provide assistance to family of passengers on the flight.
The loss of contact with the AirAsia flight comes nine months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard on March 8. It has never been found.
Malaysia’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has suffered two disasters this year – flights MH370 and MH17 – but AirAsia has never lost a plane.
Flight MH370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 passengers and crew, and MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.