A Chilean air force plane with 21 people on board was presumed to have crashed in the Pacific Ocean after it disappeared near the remote Juan Fernandez islands.

The country’s defence minister, Andres Allamand, said the CASA 212 military plane tried twice to land before it went missing in the late afternoon. He said search teams were heading to the area, but that nightfall was hampering efforts.

TVN national television said five of its staff members were among the passengers, including popular presenter Felipe Camiroaga.

The crew was planning to film a report about reconstruction on the islands, which like Chile's mainland coastline were battered by a tsunami triggered by a devastating earthquake that hit Chile early last year.

Captain Otto Mrugalski, who is directing search and rescue efforts, said no remains of the plane had been found around the Juan Fernandez islands, which lie about 670km off Chile's coast.

But the mayor of the islands told state television that passengers' belongings had been found in the sea about 1km from the islands' landing strip.

Local radio later cited him as saying a door of the plane had been found in the water.