Items resembling an emergency slide, plane door and other objects were spotted in the sea during an aerial search on December 30 for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, Indonesian officials said.
Items resembling an emergency slide, plane door and other objects were spotted in the sea during an aerial search on December 30 for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, Indonesian officials said. AFP PHOTO / Bay Ismoyo

AirAsia flight tragedy: 'bodies holding hands'

THE pilot who discovered the debris from AirAsia Flight QZ8501 has said he saw that three of the bodies recovered were holding hands.

Lieutenant Airman Tri Wobowo, who co-piloted the C130 Hercules aircraft that first saw the items of the aircraft off the coast of Borneo earlier today, described the scene that greeted rescuers in the water.

"There are seven to eight people. Three [of them] again hold hands," he told Indonesian national newspaper Kompas.

As well as the bodies, the pilot reported seeing luggage, buoys and pieces of the aircraft itself - painted the distinctive red, black and white of AirAsia.

Flight QZ8501 disappeared on Sunday en route to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia. The passenger plane was carrying 162 people at the time of its disappearance, including one Briton.

Indonesian authorities and AirAsia have both confirmed that the wreckage is Flight QZ8501.

AirAsia flight overshoots runway in Philippines

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said in a statement: "I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501."

The search is expected to continue through the night President Joko Widodo told a press conference, adding that finding passengers and crew members was the first priority. - THE INDEPENDENT

Ruth Natalia Puspitasari and her fiance, Bob Hartanto Wijaya. Source: Facebook
Ruth Natalia Puspitasari and her fiance, Bob Hartanto Wijaya. Source: Facebook

AirAsia: First stories of tragic victims emerge

AirAsia: Search pilots first thought bodies 'waving'

AirAsia flight QZ8501: Anger grows over flight tracking

 

AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: what is now known

AirAsia flight QZ8501: too early to detect 'pings'

AirAsia flight attendant's eerie tweet message

AirAsia chief bought ailing airline for less than a dollar

 

Bodies recovered from ocean in QZ8501 search zone

 

UPDATE: Bodies have been recovered from the water near where the missing AirAsia flight was last seen.

The bodies had been taken to an Indonesian navy ship, the Associated Press reported.

The Daily Mail Online said a search team had so far located six bodies, luggage, a plane door and an emergency slide floating in the water.

National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference that an Air Force Hercules had found an object described as a shadow at the bottom of the sea in the form of a plane.

Some 21 divers had been sent to retrieve debris and bodies from the water 25-30m deep.

AirAsia founder and group chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted shortly after the news broke: "My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences...".

UPDATE:  SMOKE has reportedly been spotted on an island within the search area for the missing AirAsia flight, according the head of Indonesia's search and rescue operation.

CNN reports search teams will be checking Long Island, the area where smoke was seen.

The island is one of thousands of islands that form the Indonesian archipelago.

Two search jets will be dispatched to the area, search chief Dr Max Ruland told CBS.

The United States will also join the multi-nation mission to find missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.

The US military said the USS Sampson, a guided missile destroyer, would be on the scene later on Tuesday.

Australia, Malaysia and Singapore have already joined the Indonesia-led search which comprises 15 ships and 30 aircraft, as anguished relatives of the 162 passengers and crew awaited news of their loved ones.

Soelistyo, head of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, told local television the search area between the islands of Sumatra and Borneo would be expanded.

Authorities would also begin scouring islands in the area as well as land on Indonesia's side of Borneo. So far the focus of the search has been the Java Sea.

AirAsia flight QZ8501: Anger grows over flight tracking

AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: what is now known

AirAsia flight QZ8501: too early to detect 'pings'

AirAsia flight attendant's eerie tweet message

AirAsia chief bought ailing airline for less than a dollar

 

Missing AirAsia flight search focuses on oil

AN object spotted during a search for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cannot be verified as being from the aircraft, Indonesia's vice president says.

Jusuf Kalla addressed the media at Surabaya airport, saying: "It has been checked and no sufficient evidence was found to confirm what was reported."

The reports - attributed to an Indonesian official - said Australian crews had spotted debris in the sea, but Defence said it had received no confirmation of that.

There are 15 ships and 30 aircraft involved in the second day of the search, which will resume at first light this morning.

News reports also stated a warship is on its way to collect an oil sample from the sea to establish whether it has come from missing AirAsia Flight 8501.

There were two patches of oil spotted in Indonesian waters.

National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said an Indonesian corvette (warship) had been sent to test the spills.

Officials also revealed that one of the pilots had been denied a request to increase altitude to avoid storm clouds minutes before the jet disappeared.

In the last communication with air traffic control six minutes before it vanished off radar, one of the pilots asked permission to turn left and climb from 32,000ft to 38,000ft due to the adverse weather.

However, the request could not immediately be granted because another plane was in the airspace at 34,000ft, said Bambang Tjahjono, director of the state-owned company in charge of air-traffic control.

By the time clearance could be given, Flight 8501 had disappeared, he added.

More on this at NZ Herald

 

UPDATE: The AirAsia plane that went missing with 162 people on board en route to Singapore is likely at the bottom of the sea, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief says.

"Based on the coordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference.

"That's the preliminary suspicion and it can develop based on the evaluation of the result of our search."

Mr Soelistyo said Indonesia did not have "the tools", such as submersible vehicles, required to retrieve the plane from the seabed, but that it would reach out to other countries for help if necessary.

"Due to the lack of technology that we have, I have coordinated with our foreign minister so we will borrow from other countries which have offered. They are the UK, France and US," he said.

Indonesia has accepted Australia's offer of a RAAF plane to join the search.

More on this at ABC News

Orion joins search for missing AirAsia flight

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has deployed a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft to assist in the Indonesian-led search for missing Air Asia flight QZ8501.

The Australian AP-3C Orion took off from Darwin on Monday morning to join the search operations.

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, said the ADF was ready and willing to support its Indonesian friends in the search for Air Asia flight QZ8501.

"The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members," Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.

AirAsia chief: We have no idea what went wrong

THE billionaire CEO of AirAsia has described the disappearance of flight QZ8501 as his "worst nightmare".

Tony Fernandes spoke of his horror over the situation after the plane lost contact with air traffic control with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board, while travelling from Indonesia to Singapore on Sunday.

"We have no idea at the moment what went wrong," Mr Fernandes, who founded the regional low-cost carrier in 2001, said at a press conference. "Let's not speculate at the moment."

Flight QZ8501 disappeared at about 6.16am local time, a short time after the pilot asked to deviate from the flight path due to "bad weather".

A massive search and rescue operation was launched but has been suspended for the night due to unworkable conditions.

AirAsia flight QZ8501: little chance of survivors

AS the first day's search for the missing AirAsia plane drew to a close, a leading aviation expert has warned there is little chance of finding survivors.

Flight QZ8501 was carrying 162 people on board when it lost contact with ground control at 7:24 local time on its journey from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.

Sunday's search was called off after darkness fell and will resume at 6am local time on Monday morning.

But leading aviation experts have warned that there is a slim chance of finding any survivors, due to the period of time that had already passed since the last contact was made with the plane, and the weather conditions in the area.

David Learmount, Flight Global's operations and safety editor, said it was "routine" for pilots to request diversions when approaching stormy conditions, as was the case with the Airbus A320-200.

He said: "We're not just talking about thunder and lightning here.

"Storms can be very, very powerful indeed and rip a medium-sized aeroplane completely apart, that's why a pilot will routinely ask to divert around them.

"The plane could not still be airborne - it was a short-haul flight, there would be no fuel for staying in the air for quite as long as this."

Mr Learmount, who is a pilot, also ruled out the likelihood of passengers surviving a sea landing.

He added: "The pilots were talking to air traffic control right until the last minute.

"Something distracted their attention so they were no longer able to keep talking. We don't know what happened at the moment, and it doesn't appear to be a deliberate act.

"We can speculate ad infinitum when the only thing we can go on is that it is missing.

"But I think the prognosis is not good."

AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: what is now known

The search for missing AirAsia flight

A major search operation was launched by both Indonesian and Singaporean authorities after the plane lost contact with ground control during its flight from Surabaya to Singapore.

The Indonesian air force said it sent two C-130 aircraft to search an area of the Java sea, focusing on the waters around south Borneo, while the Indonesian army, the national Search and Rescue Agency and South Korea and Malaysia said it would also contribute to search efforts.

The air search is understood to have been sent southwest of Pangalan Bun in Kalimantan province, Borneo, and Java, Indonesia, but conditions were cloudy and caused visibility to be reduced to between 5 and 10 kilometres, according to the BBC.

A map of where the AirAsia flight QZ8501 went missing

Search planes and ships are understood to have started efforts from the point where the plane disappeared from tracking screens, and the area around Pangalan Bun was around halfway along the flight's expected path.

According to officials, the pilot contacted Jakarta air traffic control at 6:12 a.m. Indonesian local time, reporting clouds and asking to climb from 32,000 feet (9,700 metres) to 34,000 feet (10,303 metres), the usual cruising altitude for jetliners.

There was no distress signal made from the flight and the plane's communication was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control.

Ships are still searching the area overnight, though speculation has begun to mount over the chances of finding any survivors from the plane.

David Learmount, Flight Global's operations and safety editor, has claimed the plane would not be able to still be airborne, as "it was a short-haul flight, there would be no fuel for staying in the air for quite as long as this".

He said it was "routine" for pilots to request diversions when approaching stormy conditions, as was the case with the Airbus A320-200.

"We're not just talking about thunder and lightning here.

"Storms can be very, very powerful indeed and rip a medium-sized aeroplane completely apart, that's why a pilot will routinely ask to divert around them."

Mr Learmount, who is a pilot, also ruled out the likelihood of passengers surviving a sea landing.

He added: "The pilots were talking to air traffic control right until the last minute.

"Something distracted their attention so they were no longer able to keep talking. We don't know what happened at the moment, and it doesn't appear to be a deliberate act.

AirAsia families gather as search intensifies

UPDATE 7.15PM: FEARFUL friends and relatives of people on board missing flight 8501 have been gathering in emergency areas to await news.

In the third air incident connected to Malaysia this year, an AirAsia plane with 162 people on board disappeared Sunday while flying over the Java Sea after taking off from a provincial city in Indonesia for Singapore.

The two countries immediately launched a search and rescue operation for Flight 8501, but there was no confirmed sign of the plane more than seven hours after it lost contact with ground control.

China Central TV reported that wreckage had been spotted at Belitung Island, Indonesia, but neither AirAsia nor search and rescue authorities have confirmed the information.

The Jakarta Post also provided a precise location at 145 kilometres from Belitung, citing a National Search and Rescue official.

"It is believed the flight had circled over the sea near Belitung to avoid a storm before it experienced severe turbulence and crashed into the ocean."

AirAsia, a regional low-cost carrier founded in 2001 by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, said in a statement that the missing Airbus A320-200 was on the submitted flight plan route.

 

However, it had requested deviation due to weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control.

AirAsia, which has a presence in most of Southeast Asia and recently in India, has never lost a plane before and has a good safety track record.

"We don't dare to presume what has happened except that it has lost contact," Djoko Murjatmodjo, Indonesia's acting director general of transportation, told reporters.

He said the last communication between the pilot and air traffic control was at 6:13 a.m. when the pilot "asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 34,000 feet (10,360 meters)."

He said there was no distress signal from the cockpit.

The contact was lost about 42 minutes after the single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner took off from Surabaya airport, Hadi Mustofa, an official of the transportation ministry, told Indonesia's MetroTV.

It was about an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore.

The plane had two pilots, five cabin crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, AirAsia Indonesia said in a statement. Among the passengers were three South Koreans and one each from Singapore, Malaysia and France. The rest were Indonesians.

There are believed to be no New Zealanders on board but the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta is following up with local authorities, says MFAT.

AirAsia said the captain in command had a total of 6,100 flying hours, a substantial number, and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours.

At Surabaya airport, dozens of relatives sat in a room, many of them talking on mobile phones and crying. Some looked dazed.

As word spread, more and more family members were arriving at the crisis centre to await word.

Murjatmodjo, the Indonesian official, said the plane is believed to have gone missing somewhere over the Java Sea between Tanjung Pandan on Belitung island and Pontianak, on Indonesia's part of Borneo island.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters in Surabaya that the position was believed to be near the coast line. He said search and rescue efforts now involved the Indonesian army, the national Search and Rescue Agency as well as Singapore and Malaysia.

 


But that effort will focus on the area around Belitung island.

In a statement after the plane went missing, AirAsia Indonesia said it regretted to confirm that it had lost contact with the plane.

Air Force spokesman Hadi Tjahjanto said three aircraft, including a surveillance plane, had been dispatched to the area. The Singapore air force and the navy also were searching with two C-130 planes.

Flightradar24, a flight tracking website, said the plane was delivered in September 2008, which would make it six years old. It is not clear if it has any satellite tracking devices on board.

Malaysia-based AirAsia, which has dominated cheap travel in the region for years, flies short routes of just a few hours, connecting large cities of Southeast Asia. However, recently it has tried to expand into long-distance flying through its sister airline AirAsia X.

AirAsia Malaysia owns 49 percent of its subsidiary, AirAsia Indonesia.

Fernandes, who is the face of AirAsia, as well as owner of English football club Queens Park Rangers and an active Twitter user, sent out a tweet saying: "Thank you for all your thoughts and prays. We must stay strong."

He tweeted later that he was heading to Surabaya.

Fernandes stirred controversy earlier this year after incorrectly tweeting that Malaysia Airlines flight 370, now synonymous with one of aviation's enduring mysteries, had landed safely. The wide-bodied Boeing 777 went missing soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. It remains missing until this day with 239 people.

Another Malaysia Airlines flight, also a Boeing 777, was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine while on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17. A total of 298 people on board were killed.

William Waldock, an expert on air crash search and rescue with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, cautioned against drawing comparisons to the disappearance of Malaysia flight 370.

"I think we have to let this play out," he said.

"Hopefully, the airplane will get found, and if that happens it will probably be in the next few hours. Until then, we have to reserve judgment."

The circumstances bode well for finding the plane since the intended flight time was less than two hours and there is a known position at which the plane disappeared, he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, expressed solidarity with AirAsia. In a tweet he said: "Very sad to hear that AirAsia Indonesia QZ8501 is missing. My thoughts are with the families. Malaysia stands ready to help."

President Barack Obama, who was vacationing in Hawaii, was briefed Sunday evening on the plane's disappearance, and White House officials were tracking the situation, the White House said.

The Airbus A320 is a workhorse of modern aviation. Similar to the Boeing 737, it is used to connect cities anywhere from one to five hours apart. There are currently 3,606 A320s in operation worldwide, according to Airbus.

The A320 family of jets, which includes A319 and A321, has a very good safety record, with just 0.14 fatal accidents per million takeoffs, according to a safety study published by Boeing in August.

It's too early to say what might have caused a crash, but the safest part of a trip is when a plane is flying at its cruising elevation. Just 10 percent of fatal crashes from 2004 through 2013 occurred while a plane was in that stage of flight, according to the August Boeing safety report.

Passing through bad weather, such as severe thunderstorms, could have been a factor. Airbus jets are very sophisticated and are able to automatically adjust to wind sheers or other weather disruptions.

However, weather has played a role in past air disasters that occurred at cruise elevation, including the 2009 Air France Flight 447 crash over the Atlantic Ocean.

Another possibility is some type of catastrophic metal fatigue caused by the cycle of pressurization and depressurization associated with each takeoff and landing cycle - something that flight 8501 would have done a lot. Still, metal fatigue is unlikely because this plane is only six years old.

AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre at 0622129850801. It is also posting updated information on its website.

UPDATE: ABC news is reporting that Indonesia's air transport director Joko Muryo Atmodjo said the aircraft had been flying at 32,000 feet, and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds before it lost contact.

EARLIER: AirAsia has confirmed it has lost contact with flight QZ8501 with 162 people aboard after takeoff from Indonesia on the way to Singapore.

An Indonesian Transport Ministry official Hadi Mustofa said the aircraft, an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC, lost contact with the Jakarta air traffic control tower at 6:17 am local time.

Officials said the plane had requested an unusual route before losing contact.

Mustofa told Indonesia's Metro TV that the plane lost contact somewhere between Kalimantan and Belitung island in the Java Islands.

Mustofa said the plane had seven crew and 155 passengers.

The first reports of the plane's disappearance emerged after it was overdue by three hours.

It was expected to land at Changi Airport at 8.30am Singapore Time.

In a statement, AirAsia Indonesia said it regretted to confirm that it had lost contact with the plane.

>> Flight QZ8501's recent flight history showing its current unknown status

"At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available.

"At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service."

AirAsia has establed an Emergency Call Centre at 0622129850801. It is also posting updated information on its website. 

Updated statement from AirAsia

AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24 (Surabaya LT) this morning. The flight took off from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya at 0535hours.

The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board.

The captain in command had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours

There were 155 passengers on board, with 138 adults, 16 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots and 5 cabin crew.

Nationalities of passengers and crew onboard are as below:

  • 1 Singapore
  • 1 Malaysia
  • 1 France
  • 3 South Korean
  • 156 Indonesia


At this time, search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). AirAsia Indonesia is cooperating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way.

The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control (ATC).

The aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on 16 November 2014.

AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is: +622129850801.

AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website, www.airasia.com.


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