An Indonesian airliner carrying 54 people was missing today after it lost contact with ground control during a short flight in the country's easternmost province of Papua, an official said. The Trigana Air Service plane was flying from Papua's provincial capital, Jayapura, to the Papua city of Oksibil when it lost contact with Oksibil's airport, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Julius Barata of the ATR42-300 twin turboprop plane, which was on a scheduled 42-minute journey. "We can't confirm it has crashed. We can say contact has been lost with the plane," the National Search and Rescue Agency chief told Reuters by phone. "It's a Trigana airline plane carrying 54 people including five crew. We are working to get more details."
The plane lost contact with the airport nine minutes before it was scheduled to land, Barata said. Reuters adds a few dark footnotes, including that Trigana has been banned from flying in European airspace since 2007 over safety concerns. It has a fleet of 14 aircraft, and has had 14 "serious incidents" since 1991, per the Aviation Safety Network; Trigana has previously written off 10 aircraft. Indonesia has had its share of airline woes in recent years; Reuters calls its safety record "patchy," and notes that the nation has seen two major crashes in the last year. The sprawling archipelago nation is one of Asia's most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to provide enough qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, and updated airport technology to ensure safety.