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Air search for Peruvian flight temporarily suspended

peru
People ask for information about the missing plane at the counter of TANS Airline at Jorge Chavez airport, Lima.

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RELATED
• Interactive: Recent plane crashes 
Fokker F28
• Engines: Two jet engines

• Passengers: 85 maximum

• Maximum cruising speed: 523 mph (at 23,000 feet)

• First flight: 1967

• Total built: 241

Sources: Aviation Safety Network, Jane's

LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- Driving rain led Peru's air force to suspend its search Thursday afternoon for a plane that was carrying 46 people when it was lost from radar over Peru's Amazon jungle earlier in the day, a spokesman for the airline said.

Two helicopters that had been criss-crossing thick jungle and mountainous terrain were grounded. They will resume operations in the search for Flight 222 Friday morning if the weather has cleared, said Jorge Belevan, a spokesman for Transportes Aereos Nacionales, or TANS Airlines.

One of three ground patrols that searched the jungle Thursday afternoon will continue the effort overnight, he said.

In the capital, President Alejandro Toledo met in the government palace with his ministers of defense, interior, health, transportation and commerce. Afterward, Vice President Raul Diez Canseco told reporters that Toledo had pledged to make available any government resources that might help the effort.

Flight 222, a Fokker F28, was three minutes from its scheduled landing at an airport in Chachapoyas, 400 miles north of Lima, when it called the control tower at 8:43 a.m., authorities said.

"They ... said they would be landing momentarily," said Minister of Interior Gino Costa Santolalla. "A little bit later, they lost communication with the control tower, and then the plane disappeared from radar."

The last communication the tower had with the plane took place three minutes before it vanished from radar, he said. At the time, the pilot did not report anything was amiss, he said.

All but two of the 42 passengers and four crew members were Peruvian, and they were Belgian, he said. Eight of the Peruvians were under the age of 12, he added.

The twin-engine plane had departed on the half-hour scheduled flight from the coastal city of Chiclayo, 410 miles northwest of Lima, Belevan said.

The air force and the national police were coordinating the search for the aircraft in the surrounding forest and mountains, which was focused near Lonya Chico, he said.

The commercial airliner is owned by the Peruvian air force.

Back Aviation Solutions, which provides consulting and data information services to the aviation industry, said TANS has only one such plane in its fleet -- a 27-year-old model that has 65 seats.

Journalists Rosana Cueva and Claudia Cisneros contributed to this report.



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