| Monday, January 08, 2007
| US team arrives to help find missing Indonesian plane
|Officials of the United States Transport Safety arrived in Indonesia’s Sulawesi on Friday to help investigate the disappearance of a plane with 102 people on board. The US team will investigate aspects such as engineering, operations and weather.
Meanwhile, search operations continued for the sixth day on Friday after the plane went missing mysteriously.
Four Indonesian military planes, a Singapore Air Force Fokker-50 and a helicopter are already looking for the missing Boeing along with army and police ground teams and civilian and Navy ships.
The missing plane, a 17-year-old Boeing 737-400, operated by the Indonesian budget carrier Adam Air, disappeared on Monday in bad weather. Those on board included three Americans.
The plane, which disappeared after encountering 130 km/hr winds over northern Indonesian waters, twice changed course, an official said.
In what officials said was his last conversation with air traffic control in Makassar, the pilot said the flight had encountered crosswinds and needed safe coordinates. Radar continued to track the flight for some time after that.
Rescuers have been combing the sea and land for the missing plane, which was heading for Manado, North Sulawesi’s provincial capital, from Surabaya in East Java.
“Whatever happened to the plane, it was likely rapid and catastrophic,” said Patrick Smith, a US-based airline pilot and aviation commentator, pointing to a possible massive structural failure thanks to metal fatigue or an onboard explosion.
He pointed out that noted that, in many accidents, “there are no distress calls simply because the cockpit crew is too busy dealing with the situation rather than calling around for help.”
The plane altered course and turned westward halfway into the two-hour trip after being warned of rough weather near the city of Makassar,Eddy Suyanto, head of the search and rescue mission, said.
When the plane ran into winds of over 130 km/hr over the Makassar Strait, it changed course again, bringing the plane eastward toward land, then disappeared from the radar, Suyanto said.
It is not clear why there have been no transmissions from the plane's emergency locator.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked for full resources to be devoted to the search for the missing plane.
Indonesia has seen a boom in airline service to serve its 17,000 islands and 220 million people since the industry was deregulated, but safety standards are reportedly poor.
|posted by a correspondent @ 7:23 AM