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Indonesia Seeks US Help Finding Plane


Indonesia has asked the United States for help in locating the AirAsia jet that went missing on Sunday carrying 162 people, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

"Today we received a request for assistance locating the airplane, and we are reviewing that request to find out how best we can meet Indonesia's request for assistance," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told a regular news briefing.

Rathke said the Indonesian request was made via a diplomatic note to the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement that details of the request "are still being coordinated but could include some air, surface and sub-surface detection capabilities."

The request came hours after the head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency said the missing AirAsia jet is likely on the "bottom of the sea."

Bambang Sulistyo told reporters in Jakarta Monday the Airbus 320 is presumed to have crashed Sunday off the Indonesia coast in the Java Sea.

QZ8501 Flight Path
QZ8501 Flight Path

"Based on the coordinates given to us and the evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is that the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Sulistyo said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he has ordered a review of the country's aviation procedures following the plane's disappearance.

"I was very shocked and I could feel the concern, the frustration and the sadness experienced by the families of passengers, and I believe (this was) also felt by all the people of Indonesia," Widodo said.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said 30 ships and 15 aircraft —​ both planes and helicopters —​ are involved in the search for the missing AirAsia flight that went missing early Sunday.

The vice president noted that Malaysia Flight 370, which vanished in March in deep waters off the coast of Australia, has still not been located, and other jetliners that went missing in recent years took months or longer to find.

Reports of debris

Indonesian authorities said debris sighted earlier Monday by an Australian search plane was not from AirAsia Flight 8501.

The AirAsia flight was about halfway through its route from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore when it disappeared Sunday morning.

The pilot had asked air traffic controllers for permission to ascend about 1,800 meters to avoid stormy weather.

An Indonesian Transport Ministry official said permission was denied because another plane was flying in the area. After that, communication went silent. Controllers did not receive any distress call from the pilot.

The head of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, said Sunday the airline's top priority is taking care of the families of the passengers and crew, and fully cooperating with the investigation.

The passengers include 149 Indonesians, three South Koreans, and one each from Britain, Malaysia, and Singapore. The seven-member crew included six Indonesians and a French co-pilot.

Aiding in search

A massive international search for the missing aircraft is ongoing. The United States, China and India are among the countries offering their resources for the operation in what is one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

Aircraft from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are already involved in the search over what is relatively shallow water - an average depth of 46 meters (150 feet).

Fernandes told reporters that until Flight 8501 on Sunday, AirAsia had “never lost a life.”

“We have carried 220 million people up to this point. Of course, there’s going to be some reaction. But we are confident in our ability to fly people. And we’ll continue to be strong,” Fernandes said.

The captain in command was quite experienced, with more than 20,000 flying hours - roughly 6,000 of those hours with Indonesia AirAsia in the cockpit of the Airbus A320.

The AirAsia plane is the second commercial airliner to disappear in 2014.

No confirmed debris has ever been found after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost contact while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 people aboard.

Steve Herman contributed to this report from Bangkok. Portions of this article are from Reuters.

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