Indonesia’s air force was searching for an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people that went missing on Sunday after the pilots asked to change course to avoid bad weather during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501, an Airbus 320-200, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 6:17 a.m. (6.17 p.m. EST), officials 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 in a statement.
No distress signal had been sent, said Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at Indonesia’s transport ministry.
Indonesia AirAsia said there were 155 passengers and seven crew on board. It said 156 were Indonesian, with three from South Korea and one each from Singapore, Malaysia andFrance.
Both neighboring Singapore and Malaysia had offered to help in the search, officials said.
Indonesia AirAsia is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia (AIRA.KL), with local investors holding the rest. The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, has not had a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.
Flight QZ8501 was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province on Borneo island, when it went missing, Atmodjo told a news conference in Jakarta.
The aircraft had been flying at 32,000 feet and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds, he added.
Tanjung Pandan is the main town on Belitung island, roughly half way between Surabaya and Singapore. There was bad weather over the island at the time.
The plane had been due in Singapore at 8:30 a.m. Singapore time (0030 GMT).