An Indonesian passenger jet with 62 people on-board is feared crashed. The Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 lost contact with the air traffic center four minutes after taking off from Jakarta. While there is no official confirmation yet, as per reports, the plane has crashed into the Java Sea.

According to Indonesia's Transportation Ministry, the Boeing 737-524, was a 26 years old aircraft that was heading to Pontianak city in Borneo. The last contact with the plane was made at 2.40 PM local time but soon it went off the radar after losing 10,000 feet altitude within 60 seconds, as per Flightradar24, an aircraft tracking service. The aircraft was carrying 50 passengers — 43 adults and 7 children — apart from 12 crew members, although it had a capacity of 130.

Sriwijaya Air
Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 took off from Jakarta amid heavy rain but soon lost contact with the air traffic controller (representational image) Wikimedia Commons

Search & Rescue Ongoing

While there is no official confirmation yet, the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said it found debris in waters near Jakarta. They believe those pieces of debris belong to Flight 182. A fisherman, named Solihin, told BBC that he saw the crash and heard an explosion.

"The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water. It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship," Solihin said, adding that the captain of the boat decided to return to land soon after.

Before the search and rescue team began their operations, several residents said that they found pieces of wreckage that they believed were of the plane. Indonesia's Transportation Minister, Budi Karya Sumadi, said that at least four warships amongst at least a dozen of vessels had been deployed to carry out search and rescue operations between Lancang island and Laki island, north of Jakarta. However, darkness has hindered the search operations. Although unconfirmed, all 62 people aboard are feared dead.

As for the debris, they would be sent to the National Transportation Safety Committee to investigate if they belonged to Flight 182. Sriwijaya Air said that it was in "contact with various related parties to get more detailed information".

Not Boeing 737 MAX

Following the news of the crash, many people thought it was another Boeing 737 MAX that recently received clearance to fly after being grounded following two crashes. But it was not. Flight 182 was an older model of the Boeing 737-500 series that was built between the 1980s and 1990s. There is no confirmation yet if the plane crashed or if it had any mechanical problems prior to departure.

Flight 182
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However, if the official report confirms, it will be the second crash within two years in Indonesia. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea with 189 people on board. The aircraft — a Boeing 737 MAX — had its anti-stall system malfunction leading to the deadliest air crash in the country's history.

Poor Safety Record

Before Flight 610's crash, Indonesia had a poor record of aviation safety. Several investigations pointed out that aircraft were poorly maintained and pilots had inadequate flying skills. That might have contributed to the crash. Until 2018, all Indonesian airlines were banned from flying into the European Union.

Sriwijaya Air, Indonesia's third-largest carrier, was also on the list of banned airlines. In 2018, the airline was removed from the list and allowed to carry passengers to the EU. The low-cost airline transports nearly a million passengers per month.