Search planes were hunting Monday for an airliner carrying 54 that went missing during a short flight in bad weather in Indonesia's mountainous easternmost province of Papua, with rescuers heading to an area where villagers reported seeing a plane crash into a mountain.
The disappearance of the Trigana Air plane is the latest in a string of aviation disasters in the southeast Asian nation.
"The latest information is that the Trigana aircraft that lost contact has been found at Camp 3, Ok Bape district in the Bintang Mountains regency," air transportation director general Suprasetyo told reporters. "Residents provided information that the aircraft crashed into Tangok Mountain."
There was no immediate word on whether anyone survived.
At least seven planes were searching close to Mount Tangok early Monday after residents of Okbape village in Papua's Bintang district told local police that they saw a plane flying low before crashing into the mountain, said Ludiyanto, who heads the search and rescue operation from Jayapura.
Ludiyanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said that rugged, forested terrain and bad weather prevented about 100 rescuers from reaching the site by foot, and no trace of the plane has been seen as cloudy and foggy had limited visibility.
Local media reports said all the passengers are Indonesians. The airline has not released a passenger manifest.
Earlier, the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) said a twin-turboprop plane had lost contact with air traffic control as it flew over the forested area of eastern Indonesia, but efforts to trace it were difficult because nightfall was approaching.
Trigana Air Operations Director Beni Sumaryanto said that within 30 minutes of hearing that the aircraft was missing, the airline sent another plane to scour the same flight path. It found nothing because of bad weather, local media reported.
According to the official BASARNAS Twitter account, the aircraft, a short-haul ATR 42-300 airliner belonging to Trigana Air Service and built in France and Italy, was carrying 44 adult passengers, five crew and five children and infants.
The plane was flying between Jayapura's Sentani Airport and Oksibil, due south of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.
Air transport is commonly used in Papua, Indonesia's easternmost province, where land travel is often impossible.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, an online database, the ATR 42-300 that went missing made its first flight 27 years ago. ATR is a joint venture between Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi, a subsidiary of Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.
The airline has been on the European Union’s list of banned carriers since 2007. Airlines on the list are barred from operating in European airspace either due to concerns about safety standards or the regulatory environment in their country of registration.
The airline has a fleet of 14 aircraft, according to the airfleets.com database. These include 10 ATR aircraft and four Boeing 737 Classics. These have an average age of 26.6 years, according to the database.
Trigana has had 14 serious incidents since it began operations in 1991, according to the Aviation Safety Network. Excluding this latest incident, it has written off 10 aircraft.
Airline officials were not immediately available for comment.
Indonesia has a patchy aviation safety record and has seen two major plane crashes in the past year, including an AirAsia flight that went down in the Java Sea, killing all on board.
The AirAsia crash prompted the Indonesian government to introduce regulations aimed at improving safety.
Indonesia's president promised a review of the ageing air force fleet in July after a military transport plane crashed in the north of the country, killing more than 100 people.