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Indonesia search underway for plane missing with 10 aboard

Four aircraft deployed to search the missing plane

Jakarta, Indonesia: An air and ground search was underway Saturday for a small passenger plane that went missing with 10 people on board during a domestic flight in eastern Indonesia.

The DHC-6 Twin Otter plane lost contact with air traffic controllers 11 minutes after taking off in good weather Friday from Masamba in South Sulawesi province, said transportation ministry spokesman Julius Barata. No distress signal was received.

The plane, owned by the private Aviastar Mandiri airline, was headed for Makassar, the provincial capital. It was carrying three crew members and seven passengers, including three children, Barata said.

Four aircraft were deployed to search for the missing plane, said Petrus Budi Prasetyo, commercial general manager for the airline.

“We have dispatched a Twin Otter and a helicopter to comb the area, along with an aircraft each from the military and police," Petrus said. “But we have not yet received any information from the scene."

Aside from the aerial search, more than 160 personnel, including 120 soldiers, were deployed for a ground search, said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, who heads Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency.

Soelistyo said the search for the plane was focusing on a 15-mile (24-kilometer) radius from where it last made contact. Ahmad Munir, head of the airport authority in Makassar, said satellite data showed the aircraft’s last known position was about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Masamba.

The 1981 Canadian-made plane joined Aviastar last January and underwent its most recent maintenance on 15 September Petrus said.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of about 250 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents in recent years, including plane and train crashes and ferry sinkings. It is one of Asia’s most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to obtain qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and modern airport technology.

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