Four large parts of AirAsia plane found in Java Sea

Indonesian divers inspect their equipment on a ship during a search operation for the victims of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.  

Indonesia search and rescue teams hunting for the wreck of an AirAsia passenger jet have located four large objects in the Java Sea, agency chief Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo told reporters on Saturday.

An official said 30 bodies had so far been recovered, some still strapped in their seatbelts, along with pieces of the broken-up plane, in the Indonesian-led search for Flight QZ8501 that is concentrated on 1,575 square nautical miles of the northern Java Sea.

Aircraft combed the sea and shoreline off Borneo on Saturday for wreckage from an Indonesia AirAsia passenger jet, hoping to take advantage of a brief break in bad weather that has hampered efforts to find the plane and its black box flight recorders.

The Airbus A320-200 plunged into the Java Sea on Sunday while en route from Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board. No survivors have been found.

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said the search area had been widened on Saturday as debris from Flight QZ8501 may have drifted more than 200 nautical miles, adding helicopters would concentrate on searching the coastline of southern Borneo.

“With the strength of the winds, waves and current, we extended the search area to 210 nautical miles,” Air Force Lt. Col. Johnson said.

Officials said 21 bodies were pulled from the sea on Friday, including two still strapped in their seat belts, bringing the total number of victims recovered to 30.

Small pieces of the aircraft and other debris have also been found, but there has been no sign of the crucial voice and flight data recorders — the so-called black boxes that investigators hope will unravel the sequence of events in the cockpit during the doomed jet’s final minutes.

A multinational team of experts, including from France’s BEA accident investigation agency that attends all Airbus crashes, has assembled at Pangkalan Bun, the town in southern Borneo closest to the search area.

But high winds and waves 4 metres high have prevented the use of some of the sophisticated equipment they have brought, including towed sonar devices and acoustic “pinger” locators designed to pick up signals from the black boxes.

Indonesia’s weather bureau said rain was forecast in the search area later on Saturday, but there were hopes of clearer skies to aid the search in the morning.

Eight ships were on Saturday searching an area 35 nautical miles by 45 nautical miles in size thought to be the most likely resting place of the lost jet’s fuselage.

Shallow seas

The cause of the crash, the first suffered by the AirAsia group since the budget operator began flying in 2002, is unexplained. Investigators are working on a theory that the plane stalled as it climbed steeply to avoid a storm about 40 minutes into a flight that should have lasted two hours.

Flight QZ8501 crashed in shallow seas, and experts say when the weather breaks finding the black boxes should not be difficult if the locator beacons, with a range of 2,000 to 3,000 metres and a battery life of about 30 days, are working.

“After the black box is found, we are able to issue a preliminary report in one month,” said Toos Sanitioso, an investigator with the National Committee for Transportation Safety on Friday. “We cannot yet speculate what caused the crash.”

The plane was flying at 32,000 ft and the pilot had asked to climb to 38,000 ft to avoid bad weather just before contact was lost. When air traffic controllers granted permission to fly at 34,000 ft a few minutes later, they got no response.

A source close to the investigation said radar data appeared to show the aircraft made an “unbelievably” steep climb before it crashed, possibly pushing it beyond the A320’s limits.

Weather reports

Hadi Mustofa Djuraid, a Transport Ministry official, told reporters on Friday that authorities were investigating the possibility that the pilot did not ask for a weather report from the meteorological agency at the time of take-off.

Indonesia AirAsia said in a statement that weather reports were printed in hard copy at the operations control centre at all its flight hubs, including Surabaya, and taken by the pilot to the aircraft before each flight.

The Indonesian captain, a former air force fighter pilot, had 6,100 flying hours on the A320 and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, according to Indonesia AirAsia, 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based AirAsia.

Indonesia’s Transport Ministry said late on Friday it had temporarily suspended Indonesia AirAsia’s Surabaya-Singapore flight because it had apparently operated the service beyond the duration of its licence.

“As of January 2, 2015, the licence of Surabaya-Singapore (return) route to Indonesia AirAsia is temporarily frozen until after there is a result of evaluation and investigation,” said spokesman Julius Adravida Barata.

Key developments in AirAsia search operations
Weather remains a worry in hunt for the plane

More ships were deployed on Friday with high-end equipment to locate the fuselage of doomed AirAsia jet even as the weather, which has hindered the search the last several days, remained a worry.

Probable area for search demarcated

The “most probable area” for search of the missing AirAsia flight has been demarcated, Royal Malaysian Navy Chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar said on Friday.

Allianz is lead insurer

The Munich-based reinsurance giant said on Monday that its subsidiary Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty U.K. is the lead insurer for AirAsia, including for liability insurance.

Here’s what AirAsia has had to say over the mishap:

Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Indonesia said: “We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues." >Read more…

Differences between the AirAsia and the MH370 accidents

The disappearance of an AirAsia passenger jet soon after takeoff inevitably brings back memories of the mystery behind Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared nearly 10 months ago and is yet to be found. >Read more…

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 8:30:15 AM |

Next Story