SURABAYA, Indonesia - The search resumed with first light Monday for an AirAsia jet carrying 162 people that disappeared more than 24 hours earlier on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore.
First Adm. Sigit Setiayana, the Naval Aviation Center commander at the Surabaya air force base, said that 12 navy ships, five planes, three helicopters, and a number of warships were talking part, along with ships and planes from Singapore and Malaysia. The Australian air force also sent a search plane.
Setiaya said visibility was good. "God willing, we can find it soon," he told the Associated Press.
AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished Sunday in airspace thick with storm clouds on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, and a rescue official said Monday that given the route of the plane he believed the most likely scenario was that it crashed.
"Based on the coordinates that we know, the evaluation would be that any estimated crash position is in the sea, and that the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," National Search and Rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference.
The plane's disappearance and suspected crash caps a tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia. The Malaysia-based carrier's loss comes on top of the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine.
At the Surabaya airport, passengers' relatives pored over the plane's manifest, crying and embracing. Nias Adityas, a housewife from Surabaya, was overcome with grief when she found the name of her husband, Nanang Priowidodo, 43, a tour agent. He had been taking a family of four on a trip to Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia's Lombok island, and had been happy to get the work.
"He just told me, 'Praise God, this new year brings a lot of good fortune,' " Adityas recalled, holding her grandson tight.
Nearly all the passengers and crew are Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore.
The Airbus A320 took off Sunday morning from Indonesia's second-largest city and was about halfway to Singapore when it vanished from radar. The jet had been airborne about 42 minutes.
There was no distress signal from the twin-engine, single-aisle plane, said Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia's acting director general of transportation.
The last communication between the cockpit and air traffic control was at 6:13 a.m., when one of the pilots "asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 38,000 feet," Murjatmodjo said. The jet was last seen on radar at 6:16 a.m. and was gone a minute later, he told reporters.
Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia launched a search-and-rescue operation near Belitung island in the Java Sea, the area where the airliner lost contact with the ground.
AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes flew to Surabaya and told a news conference that the focus for now should be on the search and the families rather than the cause of the incident. "We have no idea at the moment what went wrong," said Fernandes, a Malaysian businessman who founded the low-cost carrier in 2001. "Let's not speculate at the moment."
AirAsia has a good safety record and had never lost a plane before.
But Malaysia has endured a catastrophic year, with 239 people still missing from Flight 370 and all 298 people aboard Flight 17 killed when it was shot down over rebel-held territory in Ukraine.
AirAsia said Flight 8501 was on its submitted flight plan but had requested a change due to weather.
Sunardi, a forecaster at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, said dense storm clouds were detected up to 44,000 feet in the area at the time.
"There could have been turbulence, lightning and vertical as well as horizontal strong winds within such clouds," said Sunardi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.
AirAsia said the captain had more than 20,000 flying hours, of which 6,100 were with AirAisa on the Airbus 320. The first officer had 2,275 flying hours.
The disappearance Sunday of AirAsia Flight 8501 was the third air incident this year involving Malaysia, where budget carrier AirAsia in based.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on March 8 triggered one of modern aviation's most perplexing mysteries. Flight 370, carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished without a trace, sending searchers across vast areas of the Indian Ocean.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
All 298 passengers and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17. The plane was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. A high-ranking rebel officer has acknowledged that rebels shot down the plane with a ground-to-air missile after mistaking it for a Ukrainian military plane. Russian media, however, claim the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian jet.
Air Asia Flight 8501
An Indonesia AirAsia flight with 162 people aboard, most of them Indonesians, disappeared Sunday over the Java Sea, triggering a search involving several Southeast Asian nations. Contact with Flight 8501 was lost about 42 minutes after the single-aisle, twin-engine A320-200 jet took off from Surabaya airport in Indonesia bound for Singapore. - AP