Story last updated 17:14 UTC, January 9th, 2021.
Breaking – It has emerged that, earlier today, a Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 lost radar contact shortly after departing the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.
Lost radar contact
Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 was a domestic flight from Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) to Pontianak Supadio International Airport (PNK). It was operated by a 26-year old Boeing 737-500 registered PK-CLC. This aircraft has been with the airline since 2012, having previously flown for US carriers Continental and United.
Data from tracking website FlightRadar24.com suggests that it had reached almost 11,000 feet on its climb northwards over the Java Sea, before losing almost all of this height within a minute. Radar contact was lost at 07:40 UTC, or 14:40 local time, when the aircraft was at an altitude of just 250 feet.
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SJ182’s scheduled departure time today was 13:40. Having departed nearly an hour late, it lost radar contact just four minutes after takeoff. A total of 56 passengers were onboard, as well as two pilots and four flight attendants. This represents a load factor of just under 47% of the aircraft’s total two-class passenger capacity of 120 seats.
According to the BBC, Indonesia‘s Kementerian Perhubungan Ministry Of Transportation has confirmed that search and rescue efforts for the aircraft and its passengers and crew are underway. Local media has broadcast images of what appears to be small debris having been retrieved from the water.
— deknia. (@niaaaloey) January 9, 2021
Multiple witnesses are said to have either seen or heard “at least one explosion”. According to Deutsche Welle, a security official stated that they had “found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water.”
Bambang Suryo Aji, from Indonesia‘s search and rescue agency, stated that a team of “boats and sea riders” had been deployed to “the location suspected to be where [the aircraft] went down after losing contact.” The country’s navy has allegedly been able to determine the aircraft’s coordinates, hence the ships have been able to be launched.
According to Air Marshal Bagus Puruhito, the aircraft did not send a distress signal at any point in its four-minute flight, even during the rapid descent from nearly 11,000 feet. Mr Puruhito is the head of Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency.
Sriwijaya Air is Indonesia’s third-largest airline, and it largely serves an extensive domestic network. However, it also operates international flights to countries such as China (charters), Malaysia, and Timor Leste. Founded in 2003, its base is in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, from where SJ182 had departed earlier today.
At the time of SJ182’s disappearance, its fleet consisted of the following aircraft:
- Boeing 737-500 x6 (including PK-CLC, the aircraft involved). Average age – 26.5 years.
- Boeing 737-800 x11. Average age – 15.3 years.
- Boeing 737-900 x2. Average age – 6 years.
While Sriwijaya Air experienced several runway excursions between 2008 and 2012, this appears to be the first instance of one of its aircraft losing radar contact. It is hoped that more details concerning this alarming incident will emerge over the coming days.