Sydney, Dec 29:
An Australian military aircraft Monday joined the search operation for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, which vanished over the Java Sea Sunday.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop phoned her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, shortly after the plane’s disappearance was made public and offered assistance, she said.
On Monday morning, a Royal Australian Air Force(RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft took off from Darwin to assist with the Indonesian-led search, Xinhua reported.
“Our focus at this point must be on finding the plane. At this stage we are just hoping and praying that some passengers and crew can be rescued,” Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television.
“The search and rescue operation has been under way for some time, it was stopped overnight because of weather, so obviously the weather in the region is having an impact.
“It’s coming up 24 hours since the plane lost contact with air traffic control in Jakarta. So whilst we hope for the best as time goes on I’m afraid our fears may be confirmed.”
Bishop told Marsudi that aircraft disasters had brought Australia and Indonesia closer together in 2014.
“I was talking to Foreign Minister Marsudi about Malaysia Airlines MH17 because she was Indonesia’s ambassador to the Netherlands during the MH17 tragedy,” she said.
“Indonesia lost 12 citizens on that flight, so we were discussing how sad it was that so often when we speak in relation to an emergency or a tragedy involving an airline.”
Australian defence force chief, air chief marshal Mark Binskin, said the aircraft involved in the search specializsd in search and rescue.
“The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well-proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infrared and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members,” Binskin said in a statement.
Singapore, Malaysia and India have also offered to assist the search effort. (IANS)