Plane carrying 188 people crashes after take-off

Lion Air

A Lion Air passenger jet plane at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya Indonesia in this file

It lost contact with ground control a few minutes after take-off, as it was crossing the sea. It is unclear if there are survivors.

SilkAir is operating as scheduled the five Boeing 737 Max 8 in its fleet, the airline told The Straits Times.

Yusuf Latif, a spokesperson for the national search and rescue agency told reporters: "It has been confirmed that it has crashed".

Soon after the reports of aircraft going missing surfaced, the Indonesian authorities launched a search and rescue operation for the missing plane.

Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the aircraft was carrying up to 182 passengers, including one child and two babies, and seven crew members on the flight to Pangkal Pinang on an island chain off Sumatra.

The Lion Air flight JT-610 took off from the Jakarta airport at 6.20am local time and lost contact at 6.33am.

- The Boeing 737 MAX was expected to land in Pangkal Pinang on Monday 7.20am.

Indonesia's rescue agency says they have found plane debris at the crash site, while a statement from Boeing on its Twitter handle said that "Boeing is aware of reports of an airplane accident and is closely monitoring the situation".

Indonesian TV stations have also broadcast pictures of a fuel slick and debris field. Lion Air in a statement said Suneja had 6,000 flight hours.

Three of those on board were trainee flight attendants and one was a technician.

The head of Indonesia's transport safety committee said he could not confirm the cause of the crash, which would have to wait until the recovery of the plane's black boxes, as the cockpit voice recorder and data flight recorder are known. He joined Emirates in 2010 and shifted to Lion Air in Jakarta in March 2011.

It had been operated by the Lion Air Group since August, and the airline said it was airworthy.

Lion Air, which flies to 126 destinations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and China, is the second largest low-priced carrier in south-east Asia (after Malaysia's AirAsia), and it's growing fast.

Lion Air chief executive Edward Sirait said the plane reported a technical problem during its previous flight from Denpasar to Jakarta on Sunday night, but that was resolved before it took off on Monday morning.

Relatives and loved ones of the passengers have gathered at the airport in Pangkal Pinang to await news.

Indonesia is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record is patchy.

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