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A plane flying from Singapore to Perth crashed into a rock in Papua New Guinea, killing all 66 people on board, according to Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC).
The Airbus A320-200 plane was carrying 162 people when it went down, a spokeswoman for JACC told AP.
It is not known if any of the victims were on the plane when it crashed, but the spokeswoman said the plane was “at high altitude and there was no warning sign”.
“The plane came in very close to the rock, and there is a large area of the rock where the plane had to be ejected to avoid the impact,” she said.
JACC said it was unable to confirm how many people were on board the plane or how many passengers were on it when it was lost.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement that “an aircraft has been lost in PNG’s north-west”.”DFAT is working with the Papua New Guinean Government to assist with the recovery of the aircraft and the passengers onboard,” it said.
“DFAT will continue to work closely with PNG authorities to determine the cause of the accident.”‘
The plane did not crash’ The JACC said in the statement that the plane’s flight control system detected an “acceleration of more than 40 kilometres per hour” and a “sign of turbulence” when it reached the “highest altitude of the flight”.
The plane’s pilot reported a “small engine failure” and it did not have any airspeed or engine performance data, the spokeswoman added.
JACC says it is not yet certain what caused the plane to crash.
“At this stage we are unable to ascertain what was happening, but we believe the aircraft had been in a poor flight path when it entered the rock,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
A search operation is being carried out by a US navy helicopter.
There is a lot of uncertainty about what happened in PNG on Tuesday night and we have to be very cautious, says Australian National University professor Stephen Kavanagh.
“It is extremely important that this incident is investigated thoroughly, so that we don’t repeat it,” he told AAP.
The Jacc said in its statement that a “significant section of the cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the aircraft, but it is believed to be a non-critical area.”
Jacc said it is still trying to determine what happened, but said that it is looking into the possibility that it could be a case of pilot error.
Australia’s Defence Force said it had sent two search and rescue teams to PNG to help with the investigation.
Australian Defence Force spokeswoman Ashley Foy said the two teams were “working in close partnership with PNG police”.
“Our initial investigation suggests that the pilot of the Airbus A330 aircraft had an inappropriate and potentially dangerous attitude towards the rock in the vicinity of the crash site, leading to the aircraft crashing into the rock.
“It appears that the captain of the plane followed the instructions of the pilot and that his actions resulted in the loss of life of the passengers and crew on board,” she told the ABC.
Kavanagh said it would be difficult to know whether the plane came down due to pilot error or if the captain had intentionally flown the plane too close to a rock.”
If there is some sort of technical failure on the part of the captain, it is a very big question mark as to whether or not it was a deliberate flight plan, which could lead to a huge loss of lives,” he said.