Frantic search for missing AirAsia flight

Indonesia called off till Monday morning the search for an AirAsia plane with 162 people on board that went missing early on Sunday, after pilots asked to change course to avoid bad weather during a flight from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore.

Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501, an Airbus 320-200 carrying 155 passengers and seven crew, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 6.17 a.m. local time. No distress signal had been sent, said Joko Muryo Atmodjo, an Indonesian transport ministry official.

Tatang Kurniadi, head of Indonesia’s National Committee of Safety Transportation, expressed the hope of locating the aircraft quickly and said it was too early to detect any of the so-called electronic pings from its black box recorder.

“We are using our capacity to search on sea and land. Hopefully we can find the location of the plane as soon as possible,” he told a news conference. “We have not found out how the plane fell or what kind of emergency it was.”

Indonesia AirAsia is 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia, which has had a clean safety record since it began operating 13 years ago. The AirAsia group also has affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India.The pilot of QZ8501 “was requesting deviation due to en-route weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said in a statement.

Australian aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told the BBC in an interview late on Sunday that as the AirAsia flight was climbing to 36,000 feet and beyond to overcome thunder storm conditions, it “was flying too slow” for that height and that could have been “dangerous.” Flight QZ8501 was between Tanjung Pandan on Indonesia’s Belitung island and Pontianak in West Kalimantan on Borneo — almost halfway between Surabaya and Singapore — when it went missing. The weather was inclement over Belitung and the aircraft had been flying at 32,000 feet before asking to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds. Singapore, Malaysia, Britain, South Korea and Australia have offered to help in the search. Malaysia said it was sending vessels and a C130 aircraft while Singapore had also sent a C130. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is monitoring the situation and is prepared to assist Indonesian authorities if needed, a spokesman said. — Reuters

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:53:02 PM |

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