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Search Underway off Indonesia Coast for Missing Passenger Jet


An aerial search is underway for a passenger jet of the subsidiary of a budget airline in Southeast Asia which has gone missing on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore.

Indonesia AirAsia flight 8501 had departed Surabaya in Indonesia for Singapore's Changi airport on what should have been a routine two hour and 15 minute flight over the Java Sea.

The director general of aviation for Indonesia's transportation ministry, Djoko Atmojio, told reporters that the last transmission from a crew member on the Airbus A320 came at 6:12 AM local time Sunday.

He said the pilot stated that he was trying to avoid clouds and was moving left of the intended route and requested permission to climb (1800 meters higher).

Six minutes later the plane disappeared from radar.

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Indonesian authorities said the plane's last known position was between the islands of Belitung (off the coast of Sumatra) and Borneo, not far from the shoreline.

On board: 149 Indonesian passengers (including 16 children). The flight manifest also lists three South Koreans (one of them an infant), a Singaporean, a Malaysian and a French citizen.

The flight crew was composed of two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer.

The captain in command is described as quite experienced with more than 6,000 flying hours, and the first officer had nearly half that amount of time in the air.

The six-year old aircraft had last undergone maintenance on November 16.

Indonesia AirAsia is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based AirAsia. The low-cost AirAsia family of airlines, serving more than 100 destinations in 22 countries, has had a good safety reputation with no fatalities since beginning operations 18 years ago.

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