Search Suspended For Pakistani Plane
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Rain and darkness forced rescuers to postpone their search Friday for a passenger plane that disappeared over the country’s rugged northern mountains with 54 people.
The Pakistan International Airlines Fokker-27 took off early Friday on what should have been a 45-minute flight from the Korakoram Mountain city of Gilgit to Islamabad.
″The pilot of the missing plane made a routine call seven minutes after takeoff. There was nothing after that, nothing at all to indicate the plane was in trouble,″ said Azra Sultan, an airline spokeswoman.
The airline’s chief pilot, who uses the single name Khizar, said the twin- engine plane carried 49 passengers, including five infants, and five crew members.
Most of the passengers were Pakistanis, but Ms. Sultan said the list included an American, Paul McGorrian, a former staff writer at the St. Petersburg Times in St. Petersburg, Fla. McGorrian was doing free-lance work in Pakistan for the Times and other newspapers.
Two Pakistan Air Force C-130 aircraft, helicopters and a small airline search plane scanned the Himalaya and Korakoram mountains for signs of the plane until darkness and bad weather forced them to wait until Saturday.
″We are still hopeful. We haven’t found anything yet,″ Ms. Sultan said.
Also looking out for the plane were Indian aviation authorities and the U.N.’s Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, posted in the disputed state of Jammu-Kashmir.
Airline officials said the last they saw the propeller plane was when it took off at 7:36 a.m. from Gilgit for the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, 175 miles to the south.
Gilgit Airport said weather at the time was partly cloudy. Thunderstorms and heavy rain lashed Islamabad later in the morning.