BANGKOK — Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry said on Saturday that it had lost contact with a passenger jet after it took off from the capital, Jakarta, and flew over the Java Sea.
The ministry said that the last contact with the plane, Sriwijaya Air Flight 182, was made at 2:40 p.m. local time. The Boeing 737-524 was bound for the city of Pontianak on the island of Borneo. More than 50 people were believed to be aboard.
Four minutes after taking off amid heavy rain, the 26-year-old plane lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than 60 seconds, according to Flightradar24, the flight-tracking service.
The aviation sector in Indonesia, a developing country of thousands of islands, has long been plagued by trouble, contending with poor safety records and the rapid growth of budget airlines.
In 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea with 189 people aboard after the 737 Max jetliner’s antistall system, designed by Boeing, malfunctioned. Another 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia in March 2019 after a similar erroneous activation of the antistall system, leading to the worldwide grounding of the entire Max fleet for nearly two years.
Regarding the flight on Saturday, Sriwijaya Air said in a preliminary statement that “management is still communicating and investigating this matter and will immediately issue an official statement after obtaining the actual information.”
The country’s aviation safety commission said that it was on alert and that the transportation minister was on his way to the international airport in Jakarta. Patrol boats were heading to waters northwest of Jakarta where the plane was last seen, the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said.
“Whenever we hear this kind of news, we get ready,” Ony Suryo Wibowo, an investigator for the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee, said on Saturday. “We are gathering all the information we can get.”