Another Asian airliner has gone missing: AirAsia flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control at 7:24 a.m. local time on Sunday, AirAsia reported about four hours after the plane disappeared en route to Singapore.
(For context for American readers, flight QZ8501 disappeared at 7:24 p.m. EST on Saturday in the United States.)
AirAsia is a private airline based in Malaysia, and the country already has suffered two major aviation catastrophes this year.
In March 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic control when it was about several hundred miles north of Singapore. Rescuers still have been unable to find any traces of flight MH370, or its 239 passengers and crew, despite an unprecedented search effort.
In April 2014, or one month after MH370 went missing, AirAsia’s CEO was forced to apologize after the company’s in-flight magazine suggested that AirAsia’s own well-trained pilots would never lose a plane.
AirAsia was forced to apologize for this article in its in-flight magazine, after MH370 went missing.
AirAsia said the magazine was printed before MH370 disappeared, and was not intended as a commentary on its rival airline.
In July 2014, Malaysia Airline flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.
Details on AirAsia Flight QZ8501
Sunday’s missing AirAsia flight was traveling between Surabaya, in Indonesia, and Singapore. There were 155 passengers and seven crew on board the Airbus A320-200, officials have said.
The plane was operated by Indonesia AirAsia, a joint venture with Air Asia proper. (The company has several affiliates, including AirAsia India and AirAsia X.) Indonesia AirAsia has a fleet of 30 Airbus A320s.
An AirAsia official told the media on Sunday that the plane had requested “an unusual route” before air traffic control lost contact with QZ8501 over the Java Sea. However, an Indonesia Transport Ministry spokesperson later clarified that the pilot’s request was permission to change altitude due to bad weather, Steve Herman reported for the Voice of America.
“At the present time we unfortunately have no further information,” according to AirAsia’s statement. “At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.”
After releasing its statement to reporters, AirAsia immediately changed the appearance of its various social media accounts. On AirAsia’s Facebook account, for instance, the company swapped out its usual bright red logo in favor of a muted gray logo, and changed the background of its Facebook from a festive holiday theme to a shrouded, all-black bar.
Malaysians were “shocked” by the news of a third potential lost airliner this year, the Malaysian Insider reported, and tens of thousand of people around the globe took to social media to express their surprise and sorrow.
“Another plane went missing,” one Malaysian tweeted. “Ya Allah not again.”
“Pray for QZ8501.”