QZ8501: Australia Joins Search Mission

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SYDNEY, Dec 29 – Australia joined the Indonesia-led search for an Indonesia AirAsia plane which disappeared on the weekend with 162 people on board, the military said. A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion took off from the northern city of Darwin early this morning to join the operation, which is centred on the Java Sea, the Australian Defence Force said.

Chief of defence Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said the Orion would help in the search for the AirAsia flight, which went missing in bad weather en route to Singapore. “The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to help Indonesia in the search for the missing flight, calling President Joko Widodo on Sunday to offer assistance. Abbott told Widodo Australia would do “whatever we humanly could to assist,” his office said in a statement.

Australia is already leading the search for another missing aircraft, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared in March with 239 people on board and is believed to have crashed in the remote Indian Ocean far off Australia’s west coast.  No sign of that plane has so far been found.

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