An AirAsia flight bound to Singapore from Indonesia with 162 people on board disappeared from air traffic radar early Sunday, sending authorities scrambling to locate its whereabouts and marking a new milestone in a grim year for air travel.
The airline said early Sunday that search and rescue operations underway for the flight, Indonesia AirAsia QZ8501. The Airbus A320-200 departed the Indonesian city of Surabaya around 5:30 a.m. local time. Air controllers lost contact with the plane at around 6:17 am local time, in what was typically a two hour flight.
There were 162 people on board the flight, including seven crew members. The overwhelming bulk of those on board were Indonesian, with a mix of nationalities from South Korea, Singapore and Europe, according to AirAsia. The plane's disappearance became the third missing plane linked to Malaysia this year, and capped a string of commercial air disasters this year.
With search efforts hindered by poor weather conditions, Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla told news agencies that after 10 hours the search for the aircraft had found no wreckage. As heartbroken relatives and friends awaited word on the fate of the passengers, they were consoled by Indonesian officials and representatives.
Sunu Widyatmoko, CEO of AirAsia Indonesia said in a statement that AirAsia was "deeply shocked and saddened by this incident. We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident. In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments."
The CEO added that a briefing center was being created in Surabaya for the families, but specifically requested that media not use the hotline, as it was being reserved for relatives.
"We will release further information as soon as it becomes available and our thoughts and prayers are with those on board QZ8501," Widyatmoko said.
On Sunday, the government of Singapore announced it would send vessels to assist in the search.