Indonesian authorities are working to trace a passenger aircraft that crashed last night in rugged terrain in the jungle-clad mountains of eastern Papua.
The twin-turboprop aircraft carrying 54 people lost contact with air traffic control yesterday, Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) said. As daylight returned today, villagers in a remote settlement say they saw a plane crash into a mountain. Reports say they have found wreckage.
ABC News quoted BASARNAS chief Bambang Soelystyo saying that the agency could not confirm that the plane had crashed but all contact with it had been lost. The sighting of a crash by locals reported this morning means almost certainly that the plane has met calamity and that everyone aboard is likely to have been killed .
The official BASARNAS Twitter account said the aircraft was a short-haul ATR 42-300 airliner belonging to Trigana Air Service. The airline has an alarming history, having written off 10 aircraft, with fatalities, since it began operations in 1991 and having reported 14 serious incidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s online database.
The missing plane was carrying 44 adult passengers, five crew and five children and infants and was flying between Jayapura’s Sentani Airport and Oksibil, due south of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.
Reuters reports that Trigana has been on the European Union’s blacklist of banned carriers since 2007. Airlines on the list are barred from operating in European airspace, either because of concerns about safety standards, or misgivings about aviation administration in the country in which they are registered.
Indonesia has seen two major plane crashes over the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the Java Sea, killing everyone aboard. In July, a military transport plane crashed and killed over 100 people in northern Indonesia.
ATR, manufacturer of the plane that crashed last night, is a joint French and Italian enterprise. An ATR-72 (a longer version of the same type of aircraft) belonging to Lao Airlines crashed into the Mekong River during a cyclone in November 2013, killing all aboard.
In February this year, a relatively new ATR-72 plunged into a river in central Taipei, killing both pilots and most of the passengers. But that was pilot error. When one of the Taiwanese plane’s two engines malfunctioned, pilots mistakenly shut down the good engine, rather than the faulty one.
Written by Peter Needham