An Indonesian airline carrier with reportedly over 14 serious incidents since it began operating in 1991, 10 involving the loss of an aircraft, crashed another one of its planes in the Oktabe area of Papua on Sunday. 54 people were on board.
The plane left Jaypura’s Sentani airport at 2:22 p.m. but never reached its intended destination in Oksibil, the capital of Papua, according to Suprasetyo, Indonesia’s director general of air transportation. He added that villagers in Oktabe area reported seeing the plane crash into a mountain.
“Residents provided information that the aircraft crashed into Tangok Mountain,”Suprasetyo reported, stating that “The aircraft that lost contact has been found at Camp 3, Ok Bape district in the Bintang Mountains regency,” according to The Guardian.
Transport ministry spokesman Julius Barata, confirmed the disappearance of the ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane, which was carrying 44 adult passengers and five children, along with its five crew. “We are not sure what happened to the plane yet and we are coordinating with local authorities,” Barata continued, adding that the likely cause was bad weather, according to the Associated Free Press.
CNN reports that due to inclement weather, search and rescue teams had to postpone their search for the aircraft on Sunday, until Monday morning. The transport ministry reported later that local residents had found the wreckage, but it was not yet clear if there were any survivors.
This latest crash deals another blow to Indonesia’s poor safety record of flights, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished from radar en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, 2014 and Air Asia Flight QZ8501 on December 28, 2014.
Authorities are still looking for the MH370 flight, which had 239 people on board and the only evidence as of yet is a piece of the plane which recently washed up on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The wreckage of the Air Asia flight, which was heading to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, was later found in the Java Sea.
The BBC reports that Trigana Air Service has been on a European Union blacklist of banned carriers since 2007, along with all of Indonesia’s certified airlines aside from four carriers. The European Commission stated the reason for the ban as being due to finding the aircrafts to be “unsafe” and/or “not sufficiently overseen by their authorities.”
Four Boeing 737s and 10 ATR planes comprise the list of the Trigana fleet, but they are on average 26.6 years old, according to The Guardian.
“Oksibil is a mountainous area where weather is very unpredictable,” Trigana Air director of operations Beni Sumaryanto told AFP. “It can suddenly turn foggy, dark and windy without warning.”
“We strongly suspect it’s a weather issue,” Sumaryanto continued, defending the airline’s reputation. “It is not overcapacity, as the plane could take 50 passengers.”
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