PANGKALAN BUN/JAKARTA – Two big objects were found in the search for Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 on Saturday, as indonesia’s transport ministry said the plane was flying on an unauthorised schedule when it disappeared.
The airline was not permitted to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sundays and had not asked to change its schedule.
Meantime, the two objects spotted on Saturday are about 30 metres under water and located near an oil slick spotted on Friday, said Mr Bambang Soelistyo, chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency Basarnas. The larger of the objects was around 10m by 5m.
“With the discovery of an oil spill and two big parts of the aircraft, I can assure you these are the parts of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for,” he said.
“We are lowering a ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) underwater to get an actual picture of the objects detected on the sea floor. All are at the depth of 30m,” Mr Soelistyo said, adding that a strong current was making it difficult to operate the ROV.
Three vessels sent out to a sea area where the oil slick was spotted located the “two objects…that are close to each other,” said Mr Soelistyo. One of the three vessels was Singapore’s Navy ship RSS Persistence, he added.
The transport ministry said on Friday night that the AirAsia plane was travelling at a flight time that had not been cleared by officials. It was not permitted to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sundays.
“It violated the route permit given, the schedule given, that’s the problem,” director-general of air transport Djoko Murjatmodjo said.
He added that AirAsia’s permit for the route has been frozen until investigations are completed.
Sea conditions remain rough on Saturday
The sea in the search area was still rough on Saturday, with waves reaching a height of 4m.
Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar said in a tweet that visibility was about 8 nautical miles with wind speed of 20-30 knots. He said a search area with a dimension of 57 by 10 nautical miles had been established.
Small pieces of the aircraft and other debris have been found so far, 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.
Indonesia said on Friday that recovery teams recovered 30 bodies, including some strapped in their seats, and spotted debris resembling parts of the tail.
The navy picked up at least five bodies wearing seat belts and found the debris by sonar, Colonel Yayan Sofiyan, commander of the warship Bung Tomo, told MetroTV.
“Our team found what we suspect is a fraction of the aircraft tail,” The colonel said on Friday. “It was at the bottom of the sea, at 29 meters deep.”
Oil spill was also found in the red zone which has been given priority in the search. The zone is close to Kumai Bay.
Of the 30 bodies recovered, four have been identified. Police said three Indonesians, including stewardess Khairunnisa Haidar, passengers Grayson Herbert Linaksita and Kevin Alexander Soetjipto, were identified based on their fingerprints and medical records.
International experts from France, Singapore and Indonesia equipped with sophisticated acoustic detection gear joined the teams at the suspected crash site off Borneo, bolstering the search for the Airbus A320-200’s black box flight recorders.
But strong wind and heavy seas hindered divers’ search for the fuselage of the plane, which went down on Sunday en route from Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board. No survivors have been found.
The plane had gone missing on Dec 28, 2014, and debris were found three days later in the waters south of Kalimantan region.
Given that the plane crashed in shallow seas, experts say finding the boxes should not be difficult if the beacons, with a range of 2,000 to 3,000 metres, are working.
Toos Sanitiyoso, an air safety investigator with the National Committee for Transportation Safety, said he hoped the black box flight data and voice recorders could be found within a week, suggesting there was still doubt over the plane’s location.
“The main thing is to find the main area of the wreckage and then the black box,” he told reporters. None of the tell-tale black box “pings” had been detected, he said.
Investigators are working on a theory that the plane went into a stall as it climbed steeply to avoid a storm about 40 minutes into the flight. Experts also said that initial information point ot the possibility that the aircraft may have managed to land on sea but could have been overcome by high seas, AFP reported.
Was the plane flying too slowly, too steeply?
The plane disappeared on Sunday morning after it failed to get permission to fly higher to avoid bad weather because of heavy air traffic. It was flying from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.
The plane was travelling at 32,000 feet and had asked to fly at 38,000 feet. When air traffic controllers granted permission for a rise to 34,000 feet a few minutes later, they received no response.
Radar data being examined by investigators appeared to show that the Airbus A320 made an “unbelievably” steep climb before it crashed, possibly pushing it beyond the aircraft’s limits, a source familiar with the probe’s initial findings said on Wednesday.
The data was transmitted before the aircraft disappeared from the screens of air traffic controllers in Jakarta on Sunday, added the source, who declined to be identified. “So far, the numbers taken by the radar are unbelievably high. This rate of climb is very high, too high. It appears to be beyond the performance envelope of the aircraft,” he said.
Online discussion among pilots has centred on unconfirmed secondary radar data from Malaysia that suggested the aircraft was climbing at a speed of 353 knots, about 100 knots too slow, and that it might have stalled.
Investigators are focusing initially on whether the crew took too long to request permission to climb, or could have ascended on their own initiative earlier, said a source close to the inquiry, adding that poor weather could have played a part as well.
A Qantas pilot with 25 years of experience flying in the region said the discovery of the debris field relatively close to the last known radar plot of the plane pointed to an aerodynamic stall. One possibility is that the plane’s instruments iced up, giving the pilots inaccurate readings.
The Indonesian captain, a former air force fighter pilot, had 6,100 flying hours under his belt and the plane last underwent maintenance in mid-November, said the airline, which is 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia.
Did the aircraft manage to ditch?
The Airbus A320-200 had disappeared from radar over the Java Sea during a storm, but it failed to send the transmissions normally emitted when a plane crashes or is submerged.
Experts say this suggests the experienced former air force pilot, Captain Iriyanto, conducted an emergency water landing which did not have a destructive impact.
“The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) would work on impact, be that land, sea or the sides of a mountain, and my analysis is it didn’t work because there was no major impact during landing,” said Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa. “The pilot managed to land it on the sea’s surface,” he added.
“The conclusions I have come to so far are that the plane did not blow up mid-air, and it did not suffer an impact when it hit a surface, because if it did so then the bodies would not be intact,” Chappy Hakim, a former air force commander, told AFP.
The fuselage is also thought to be largely intact after aerial searchers saw a “shadow” on the seabed, where operations are now being focused. An emergency exit door and an inflatable slide were among the first items recovered by the search team, suggesting the first passengers may have started the evacuation process once the plane landed on water.
Former transport minister Jusman Syafii Djamal was convinced the discovery of the floating exit door meant “someone had opened it”. Passengers may have been waiting for a flight attendant to inflate a life raft when a high wave hit the nose and sank the plane, Djamal added. “High waves may have hit the plane, the nose, and sunk the plane.”
Flight safety standards require that all passengers can be evacuated from a plane in 90 seconds. The cause and more details of the crash will remain unclear until investigators find the all-important black boxes, which will answer questions such as why the underwater locator beacon did not work.
Three airline disasters involving Malaysian-affiliated carriers in less than a year have dented confidence in the country’s aviation industry and spooked travellers.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing in March on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew and has not been found. On July 17, the same airline’s Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Indonesia AirAsia is a joint venture 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based AirAsia group, which is run by feisty entrepreneur Tony Fernandes.
The group counts affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, and had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.
At least 40 bodies and wreckage including a plane door and oxygen tanks have been recovered in the search for missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501.
The bodies – which were not wearing life jackets – have been brought on board a navy ship, said Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Director SB Supriyadi.
Local television broadcast pictures of the bodies floating in the sea.
“The warship Bung Tomo has retrieved 40 bodies and the number is growing. They are very busy now,” said a navy spokesman.
They were found in the Java Sea about six miles (10km) from where the plane last communicated with air traffic control.
Search chief SB Supriyadi also said an air force Hercules had “found an object described as a shadow at the bottom of the sea in the form of a plane”.
Objects spotted earlier have also been confirmed as wreckage from the plane and some have been taken away by helicopter for testing.
AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said he was rushing to the scene and wrote on Twitter: “My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501.
“On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”
The Airbus A320-200 disappeared from radar on Sunday morning, on its way from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.
There were 162 people on board, including one British man, Hull-born Chi Man Choi, and his two-year-old daughter.
Minutes later it fell off the radar without giving any distress call.
Geoffrey Thomas, editor of AirlineRatings.com, told Sky News: “We have a radar plot which shows the plane actually climbing through 36,300ft – it wasn’t given permission to do that.
“It also shows that its speed had decayed by 134mph and dropped dramatically to a level where it couldn’t sustain flight.”
Some 30 ships and 21 aircraft from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia have been involved in searching 10,000 nautical miles of ocean.
Badan SAR Nasional:
Do not use any information on this site for life or death decisions. All information is intended as supplementary to official sources. Kindly refer to your country’s official weather agency/government website for local warnings, advisories and bulletins.