Wreckage of plane found in Indonesian mountains

  • World
  • Tuesday, 02 Jan 2007

By Jerry Norton

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's air force spotted the wreckage of a missing passenger plane with 102 people on board on Tuesday in a mountainous region of Sulawesi, the second transport disaster this week in the sprawling archipelago. 

First Air Marshal Eddy Suyanto, commander of Hasanuddin air base in the Sulawesi city of Makassar, told Radio Elshinta an air force plane assigned to search for the Adam Air Boeing 737-400 had seen the wreckage. 

"The plane is in ruins. We are sending teams to the location. The plane was found around 20 kilometres from Polewali (town) in the mountains. The weather is clear," Suyanto said. 

At least 90 people were killed, the head of Polewali Mandar region, Ali Baal Masdar, told Elshinta. 

"Ninety people have been confirmed dead but we do not know the condition of the others. The location is 700 metres high," Masdar said. 

A copy of the missing plane's manifest made available to reporters showed three passengers as non-Indonesians, but did not indicate their nationalities. 

The disappearance of the plane came two days after the sinking of an Indonesian ferry, more than 400 of whose passengers were still unaccounted for on Monday. 

The plane lost contact with the ground on Monday about an hour before it was due to land in Manado in North Sulawesi, said Tatang Ikhsan, director general of the transport ministry. 

At Jakarta's main commercial airport, where the flight began its journey, taxi driver Oswald Mamalani told Reuters after the plane was initially reported missing that his younger sister and her child were aboard the plane. 

"When I arrived home, I got a phone call from a relative in Manado asking me to pray ... for the safety of my sister," he said. 

The flight had taken off from a stopover in Surabaya on Java island and was scheduled to land about two hours later in Manado. 

The transport ministry's Ikhsan said the plane was airworthy and last serviced in December 2005. It had 45,371 flying hours and, according to Adam Air, the 17-year-old aircraft's engines are CFM56-3C1 models made by General Electric. 

An Adam Air Boeing 737-300 plane was forced to make an emergency landing in February after a navigational failure caused the pilot to lose contact with its destination airport. 

One of about a dozen budget airlines in the world's fourth most populous nation, Adam Air operates 19 Boeing 737s. Established in 2002, it serves dozens of domestic routes and also flies to Singapore. In January a newspaper report said Adam Air was planning a share listing in Singapore for 2008. 

Air travel in Indonesia, home to 220 million people, has grown substantially since the liberalisation of the airline industry after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, which enabled privately owned budget airlines to operate. 

(With additional reporting by Muhamad Ari, Telly Nathalia, Ahmad Pathoni, Harry Suhartono and Yoga Rusmana) 

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