Boeing said in a statement that it was aware of reports that an aircraft had crashed © Gusti Fikri Izzudin Noor/PLANESPOTTERS.NET/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Indonesia has launched a search operation after a Boeing 737-500 passenger jet operated by Indonesian carrier Sriwijaya Air lost contact soon after take-off from Jakarta.

Flightradar24, which tracks live air traffic around the world, shows that the nearly 30-year-old aircraft reached an altitude of 10,900ft before appearing to make a sharp turn and then plummeting to 250ft where contact was lost.

The plane was heading to Pontianak, the capital of Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province. 

Indonesian authorities confirmed that the plane had lost contact and said fragments had been found, although they could not confirm whether they were from flight SJ182. The search would begin Sunday morning when visibility was better, they said.

The airline could not be reached for comment.

Kompas TV, an Indonesian broadcaster, showed live images of local fishermen holding up cabling found in the water north of Jakarta. The fishermen had heard two explosions, the broadcaster said on its site. Reports said the aircraft was carrying 50 passengers.

The missing aircraft is a much older model than the 737 Max, which was involved in two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019. It does not use the same systems which have been identified as contributing to those crashes in which 346 people died.

The aircraft was powered by two CFM56-3C1 engines, produced by General Electric and Safran joint venture CFM, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Tracking data shows the path of the missing jet before contact was lost © AP

Boeing said in a statement that it was aware of reports that the aircraft had crashed. “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182. Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time,” the group said.

Saturday’s accident comes as Boeing attempts to rebuild its credibility after a Max aircraft operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in October 2018, killing 189 people. Five months later Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed killing 157 people.

This week Boeing agreed to pay $2.5bn to resolve a criminal charge of misleading federal aviation regulators over the safety of the 737 Max. The 737 Max was recertified for commercial flight in recent weeks after substantial software changes.

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