An Indonesian passenger plane has gone missing and is feared to have crashed just minutes after taking off from the country’s capital city of Jakarta.
Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 lost 3000 metres in altitude in less than 60 seconds before disappearing while flying north over the Java Sea.
The plane rapidly lost altitude just four minutes after taking off and flying north from Jakarta’s airport over the Java Sea, according to Flight Radar 24 data.
The missing flight had taken off from Jakarta at 2.36pm local time (6.36pm Sydney time) and was heading northbound for the city of Pontianak.
The last contact with the flight was at 2.40pm (6.40pm Sydney time), according to CNBC Indonesia.
Thousands Islands residents, a chain of islands located off the north coast of Jakarta, heard “two explosions” near the suspected crash sight.
Fisherman who went out to investigate the sounds have found debris, including plane fuselage, in the area.
“We found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water,” security official Zulkifli told CNN Indonesia, AlJazeera reports.
There were 56 people on board which included six crew, seven children three babies and 40 adult passengers.
A search and rescue operation began with no official results available on Saturday night.
“We deployed our team, boats and sea riders to the location suspected to be where it went down after losing contact,” Bambang Suryo Aji, a senior official at the agency, told reporters after nightfall.
No Australians are believed to have been on the flight and distressed loved ones of passengers onboard have now been left fearing the worst.
“I have four family members on the flight — my wife and my three children,” Yaman Zai said as he sobbed at Pontianak airport.
“They haven’t arrived. They’re not here,” he was heard saying as he spoke on his mobile phone.
“At this point, we are investigating and co-ordinating the matter with Basarnas (the search and rescue agency) and KNKT (the transport safety body). We will release more information as soon as there are developments,” Indonesian Transport Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said in a statement.
The 95-minute flight was being operated on a 27-year-old Boeing 737-500.
In a statement Sriwijaya Air said it was “in contact with various related parties to get more detailed information” and will provide more information when it comes to hand.
The budget airline, which has about 19 Boeing jets that fly to destinations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, said only that it was investigating the loss of contact.
In October 2018, 189 people were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX jet slammed into the Java Sea about 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on a routine one-hour flight.
That crash — and a subsequent fatal flight in Ethiopia — saw Boeing hit with $2.5 billion in fines over claims it defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX model, which was grounded worldwide following the two deadly crashes.
Indonesia’s aviation sector has long suffered from a reputation for poor safety, and its airlines were once banned from entering US and European airspace.
In 2014, an AirAsia plane crashed with the loss of 162 lives. Domestic investigators’ final report on the AirAsia crash showed a chronically faulty component in a rudder control system, poor maintenance and the pilots’ inadequate response were major factors in what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.