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AirAsia Flight Goes Missing With 162 Aboard


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Rachel Martin is away. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Search and rescue teams have suspended their work for the night, so far failing to locate a missing AirAsia plane. The flight left Indonesia headed for Singapore when it disappeared with 162 passengers and crew on board. NPR's Anthony Kuhn is monitoring this story from Beijing. He joins us now. Anthony, what can you tell us about this flight's route and where it disappeared?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: This was supposed to be a short regional hop. This was AirAsia flight QZ8501, and it took off on Sunday morning local time from Indonesia's second city of Surabaya in route to Singapore. And it headed northwest over the Java Sea with the island of Java to the south and Borneo to the north. And then it disappeared at 7:24 a.m. local time about an hour before it was scheduled to arrive in Singapore.

WERTHEIMER: Do you have any idea - has anyone reported what might have happened to it?

KUHN: AirAsia says that the pilot requested to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather. There were thunderstorms in the area. There was lightning. But there were no distress signals and no sign of the plane has been found - one minute it was on the radar, the next, it disappeared.

WERTHEIMER: Who was on this flight?

KUHN: AirAsia said that aboard the flight there where three South Korean passengers and then one passenger each from Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. And the other 149 passengers are Indonesians. There are also seven pilots and crew aboard the flight. And many of the next of kin of those people are now anxiously awaiting news of the flight at airports in both Singapore and Surabaya.

WERTHEIMER: Now AirAsia is a Malaysia -based airline, I believe, which makes this the third aviation incident involving Malaysia this year, right?

KUHN: That's correct. Malaysia Airlines, the state carrier, lost two planes this year. One disappeared in March over the Indian Ocean; another was shot down over Ukraine in July. And that's something - two back-to-back accidents - that are just unprecedented in 100 years of aviation history. Now AirAsia, as you said, is a Malaysia-based budget carrier. And this flight belonged to its Indonesian subsidiary. So it's too late to say that the plane is lost, but it looks like it could be a disastrous finish to an already terrible year for aviation in Malaysia.

WERTHEIMER: Anthony Kuhn reporting from Beijing. Thank you very much.

KUHN: You're welcome, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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