A passenger plane missing over Papua with 54 people on board has been found by villagers in eastern Indonesia, according to reports.
Indonesian Transport Ministry officials said local residents saw the plane crash into a mountain.
“The plane [wreckage] has been found. According to residents, the flight had crashed into a mountain,” the ministry’s director-general of air transport Suprasetyo said.
Officials were still verifying the accounts from local residents, he said. There was no indication of survivors.
Search and rescue teams, police and the military would head to the site as soon as possible, transport ministry spokesman J. A. Barata said.
Trigana Airlines ATR 42 aircraft was carrying 49 passengers, including two children and three toddlers, and five crew members.
The plane took off from Jayapura at 2:22pm local time (3:22pm AEST) for what should have been about a 40-minute flight to Oskibil. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane at 2:55pm local time (3:55pm AEST).
Ten minutes before it was due to land, the plane contacted Oksibil control tower asking to descend, Trigana Air’s service director of operations captain Beni Sumaryanto told ABC.
Half an hour later, Trigana Air sent another turboprop plane over the same route to look for the missing aircraft, he said.
Oksibil is about 40km from the border with Papua New Guinea and is the capital of the Bintang Mountains Regency.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, an online database, Trigana has had 14 serious incidents and written off 10 aircraft since it began operations in 1991.
It said the ATR 42-300 had its first flight 27 years ago. ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.
Trigana has been on the EU blacklist of banned carriers since 2007. Airlines on the list are barred from operating in European airspace due to either concerns about its safety standards, or concerns about the regulatory environment in its country of registration.
Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and experienced two major plane crashes in the past 12 months, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the Java Sea, killing all 162 on board.
– with agencies