( December 28, 2014, Singapore City, Sri Lanka Guardian) AirAsia and aviation officials confirmed Sunday morning that they had lost contact with a passenger plane flying from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore.

The Singapore Civil Aviation Authority said that Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200 with 161 people on board, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 7:24 a.m. local time (5:35 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday), about an hour before it was scheduled to land.

Trikora Raharjo, the general manager of Surabaya's Juanda airport, told the Associated Press that the aircraft was carrying 155 passengers and six crew members. 149 of the 155 passengers were Indonesia, Raharjo said. The other six passengers included three South Koreans -- one of whom was an infant -- and one each from Singapore, Malaysia, and Great Britain.

Sky News, citing an official with Indonesia's Transport Ministry, reported that the aircraft had requested an unusual route before losing contact. That official, Hadi Mustofa, told reporters that the plane was believed to have been over the Java Sea between Kalimantan and Java islands. He added that the weather in the area was cloudy.

The Singapore aviation authority said it was informed about the missing plane by Jakarta ground control about half an hour after the contact was lost.

"Search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities," it said, adding that the Singapore air force and the navy also were activated with two C-130 planes.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that President Obama had briefed about the missing flight and officials would continue to monitor the situation.

According to the website FlightAware.com, Flight QZ8501 was scheduled to depart from Juanda International Airport on the Indonesian island of East Java at 5:30 a.m. local time, with arrival in Singapore scheduled for 8:20 a.m. (7:20 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday). It had last flown the route on Dec. 26.

AirAsia, a Malaysia-based budget carrier which has dominated cheap travel in the region for years, has never lost a plane before. Earlier this year, national airline Malaysia Airlines lost two planes. Flight MH370 vanished on March 8 with 239 passengers and crew on board. On July 17, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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