JAKARTA: An AirAsia plane carrying 162 people that went missing after its pilot failed to gain permission to alter course to avoid a storm is believed to have crashed into the sea, a senior Indonesian rescue agency official said on Monday.
Indonesia was searching the Java Sea on Monday for the AirAsia plane that went missing on Sunday during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.
"Based on our coordinate estimation, initial estimation is in the water," Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said of the missing plane's likely location.
"It can be expanded based on evaluation," he told reporters on Monday.
Meanwhile the search for the missing jet that disappeared more than 24 hours ago on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore resumed with first light on Monday.
First Admiral 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.
Setiaya said visibility was good. "God willing, we can find it soon," he said.
AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished in airspace thick with storm clouds on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Searchers had to fight against heavy rain on Sunday before work was suspended due to darkness.
The Airbus A320 took off on Sunday morning from Indonesia's second-largest city and was about halfway to Singapore when it vanished from radar. The jet had been airborne for 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 6:13am (23:13 GMT Saturday), when one of the pilots "asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 34,000 feet (10,360 meters)," 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 CEO 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."
Malaysia-based AirAsia has a good safety record and had never lost a plane before.