Plane with 54 aboard crashes in Indonesia

An aircraft with 54 people on board crashed in Indonesia’s remote and mountainous region of Papua yesterday, a government official said.

It is the latest in a string of aviation disasters in the southeast Asian nation.

“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. “Residents provided information that the aircraft crashed into Tangok mountain.” There was no word on whether anyone survived.

Earlier, the national search and rescue agency, Basarnas, had said a twin-turboprop plane had lost contact with air traffic control as it flew over the forested area of eastern Indonesia, but efforts to trace it were difficult, because of failing light.

Trigana Air Operations director Beni Sumaryanto said that, within 30 minutes of hearing that the aircraft was missing, another plane was sent out to scour the same flight path, but it had found nothing because of bad weather.

According to the official Basarnas Twitter account, the aircraft, a short-haul ATR 42-300 belonging to Trigana Air Service and built in France and Italy, was carrying 44 adult passengers, five crew, and five children and infants.

The plane was flying between Jayapura’s Sentani Airport and Oksibil, due south of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

Air transport is popular in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, because land travel is often impossible.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, an online database, the missing ATR 42-300 first flew 27 years ago. ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italian aerospace firm, Finmeccanica

The airline has been on the EU’s list of banned carriers since 2007. Airlines on the banned list are barred from operating in European airspace, due to concerns either about safety standards or about the regulatory environment in their country of registration.

The airline has 14 aircraft, according to airfleets.com’s database. These include 10 ATRs and four Boeing 737 Classics. These have an average age of 26.6 years, according to the database.

Trigana has had 14 serious incidents since it began operations in 1991, according to the Aviation Safety Network. Excluding this latest incident, it has written off 10 aircraft.

Airline officials were not available to respond to enquiries from Reuters.

Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has had two major plane crashes in the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the Java Sea, killing all on board.

The AirAsia crash prompted the Indonesian government to introduce regulations to improve safety.

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


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