Sunday, August 16, 2015

Indonesian Plane Down On Papua

Authorities to launch recovery operations at dawn on Monday    


An Indonesian passenger plane carrying 54 people has crashed in the country’s eastern Papua region, a Transportation Ministry official has confirmed. Contact with Flight TGN267 was lost at about 0600 GMT Sunday.

Trigana ATR 42-300
The search was temporarily halted overnight, but now officials say that two planes and a helicopter are engaged in the hunt. The two planes are from the airliner itself, while the Indonesia Armed Forces has provided a helicopter. Additionally, officials say they have also dispatched a ground search crew to cover the area where the plane is believed to have disappeared. Much of Papua is covered with impenetrable jungles and mountains. Some planes that have crashed there in the past have never been found. 

Officials have also asked locals to help in the search.

The Trigana Air plane disappeared earlier on Sunday during a short flight from Papua's capital Jayapura at 2:22pm local time (3:22pm AEST) for what should have been about a 40-minute flight to Oskibil.

Ten minutes before it was due to land at 3:00pm (local time), the plane contacted Oksibil control tower asking to descend, Trigana Air's service director of operations captain Beni Sumaryanto said.

But the plane never arrived.

Half an hour later, Trigana Air sent another turboprop plane over the same route to look for the missing aircraft, he said.

"But the weather was very bad, it could not find it and the plane was turned back to Sentani," captain Sumaryanto said.

He added: "Oksibil is a mountainous area where weather is very unpredictable. It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning."

"We strongly suspect it's a weather issue. It is not overcapacity, as the plane could take 50 passengers."
"The latest information is that the Trigana aircraft that lost contact has been found at Camp 3, Ok Bape district in the Bintang Mountains regency," Air Transportation Director General Suprasetyo told reporters on Sunday, Reuters reports.

Oskibil is a remote settlement in the mountains, about 40 kilometres from the Papua New Guinea border, and only accessible by plane.

The flight TGN267, an ATR 42 short-range airliner, was going from Sentani to Oksibil, both in Papua, and was supposed to only take 50 minutes.

"Residents provided information that the aircraft crashed into Tangok mountain."

According to Reuters, there were no reports on any survivors of the crash.

The ownership record of the missing aircraft available at shows that it is almost 25 years old.

Since 2007, Trigana airline has been on an EU blacklist after failing to meet safety standards. The airline, which has a current fleet of 14 aircraft, has had 14 major incidents during its 24 years of operation, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The search operation is hampered by darkness, poor weather and difficult terrain in the area, the state search agency's spokesperson told CNN. It is to begin at 6 a.m. local time on Monday.

Flight TGN267 was not equipped with an Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system, which also makes tracking the aircraft difficult.

Indonesia's president pledged to review the country’s aging air force in July, following a military plane crash that left over 100 people dead.

Trigana Air has been on the EU blacklist for banned carriers.

Trigana Air is a small airline established in 1991 that operates domestic services to around 40 destinations in Indonesia.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, an online database, the ATR 42-300 had its first flight 27 years ago.

A passenger relative cries as she walks out of the airline's main office in Jakarta on Sunday

ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.

Trigana has been on the European Union blacklist of banned carriers since 2007.

Airlines on the list are barred from operating in European airspace due to either concerns about their safety standards, or concerns about the regulatory environment in their country of registration.

Trigana Air has a fleet of 14 aircraft with an average age of 26.6 years, according to the database.

These include 10 ATR aircraft and four Boeing 737 classics.

Trigana has had 14 serious incidents and written off 10 aircraft since it began operations in 1991, according to the Aviation Safety Network's online database.

Small aircraft are commonly used for transport in remote, mountainous Papua, and bad weather has caused several accidents in recent years.

On Wednesday, a Cessna propeller plane operated by Indonesian company Komala Air crashed in Papua's Yahukimo district, killing one person and seriously injuring the five others on board.

Officials suspect that crash was caused by bad weather. 

Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has seen two major plane crashes in the past year, including an AirAsia flight that crashed into the Java Sea during stormy weather in December, killing all 162 people on board. 

That crash prompted the government to introduce regulations aimed at improving safety.

Indonesia's president promised a review of the ageing air force fleet in July after a military transport plane crashed in the north of the country, killing more than 100 people.

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