'Missing AirAsia plane maybe at the bottom of the sea'

'Missing AirAsia plane maybe at the bottom of the sea'

Search teams scoured waters off Indonesia's coast today for an AirAsia jetliner that went missing over the Java Sea with 162 people on board as a rescue official said the plane is suspected to be at the bottom of the sea.

The Singapore-bound Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air-traffic control less than an hour after takeoff from Surabaya, Indonesia, yesterday shortly after requesting to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather.

Indonesia's search authority said the plane is suspected to be at the bottom of the sea and that it hadn't detected any signal from the plane's emergency locator transmitter.

"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, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief told a press conference in Jakarta.

The search was focused on a radius of 270 nautical miles off Indonesia's Bangka island -- a center of tin mining and pepper cultivation south of Singapore -- and could be widened, Sulistyo said.

Air force aircraft, naval ships and crew from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are involved in the search and locate operations, according to media reports.

The Indonesia military's search and rescue team at Manggar in East Belitung have been briefing fishermen of the search area.

Five nations, including India, have offered help in the massive search and rescue operation for the missing plane.

Indonesian air traffic control lost contact with the Airbus A320-200 aircraft at 6.24 am local time as it was flying with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board yesterday.


The six-year-old Airbus A320-200 was flying over the Java Sea in Indonesian airspace when communication with air traffic control ceased about 42 minutes after take-off from Juanda Airport.

The aircraft was to landed at Singapore's Changi Airport at 8.30 am. The pilot had asked for a new route minutes before he went off the radio, air traffic control said.


The plane's last detected position was 100 nautical miles south-east of Tanjung Pandan on Belitung Island.

Indonesian air transportation director Joko Muryo Atmodjo said the plane was flying at 32,000 feet and had requested for a slight change in its flight path by "flying to the left and at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds".


Belitung Island search and rescue chief Joni Supiardi said his operation centre was activated as soon as the plane was confirmed missing.

The missing aircraft belongs to Indonesia AirAsia, which is 51 per cent owned by Fersindo Nusaperkasa with the remaining 49 per cent equity held by Malaysian company AirAsia Berhad.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said three naval vessels and C130 aircraft had been sent to assist Indonesia in the search and rescue operations, adding that his ministry and the Armed Forces were ready to provide any assistance.

Singapore also activated its Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) and offered help with two C130 aircraft on standby.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes in a Twitter message said, "This is my worst nightmare".

Weather conditions around the Java Sea towards year end are known to be violent but not unmanageable, Malaysian aviation experts said.

Retired pilot Jalil Mat Dom said thunderstorms in the region could be quite intense and that pilots could ask for a change in their flight plans.

He said that pilots before departing an airport were aware of weather conditions as they were briefed by the meteorological departments in the areas concerned.

Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology senior expert Ahmad Maulan Bardai said communication systems on aircraft such as the A320-200 was designed to work in bad weather.

He said bad weather alone could not account for QZ8501's disappearance, adding that more than one factors were usually present, Star quoted him as saying.

Those on board on the flight included 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Briton, one Malaysian, one Singaporean and one French citizen, airline officials said.
Seventeen of the passengers were children.

Indonesia's transport minister said the government would review AirAsia's operations in the country following the disappearance of a plane.

"We will do a ground check as well as a review of AirAsia's operations in Indonesia to ensure that all of its activities are better in the future," Ignasius Jonan told reporters.

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