News and Views

AirAsia flight QZ8501 vanished in area known as the ‘Thunderstorm Factory’

By  | 
  • Search and rescue chief says plane is most likely ‘at the bottom of the sea’
  • Objects spotted in search zone later ruled out by Indonesia’s vice-president
  • Operation centres on two oily patches around 1,000km from last contact 
  • Experts claim jet may have stalled because it was flying ‘160km/h too slow’
  • Request made by pilot to climb due to storms six minutes before vanishing
  • Air traffic control couldn’t grant request because another plane was in way 
  • AirAsia boasted it would ‘never lose a plane’ days after MH370 vanished

On the lookout: A Singapore Air Force serviceman looks for wreckage of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 on board a C-130 aircraft after the jet went missing en route from Indonesia to Singapore

Aviation experts have revealed veteran pilots usually avoid the area known as the ‘thunderstorm factory’ where AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing, as relatives of the 162 passengers and crew on board the aircraft anxiously wait to find out if an oil sample taken from the sea is connected to the plane.An Indonesia Navy search and rescue crew looks for AirAsia QZ 8501 on a Maritime Patrol Navy Aircraft above Bangka-Belitung Islands in the Java Sea

The aircraft disappeared en route to Singapore from Indonesia in an area over the Java sea known for its catastrophic storms, Strategic Aviation Solutions chairman Neil Hansford told the Today show. 

He said most flights went around the area and somebody ‘dropped the ball’ when they made the flight plane for QZ8501. Trawling the waters: Indonesian navy personnel scan for the AirAsia wreckage and any possible signs of life

Dozens of planes and ships focused their search on two patches of oil spotted in Indonesian waters on Monday as a senior official warned the aircraft was likely at the ‘bottom of the sea’.

As the second day’s search ended at dusk, National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo said an Indonesian corvette (warship) had been sent to test the spills, with an announcement expected on Tuesday.

The third day’s search will also expand to land, including the western part of West Kalimantan province, Soelistyo confirmed.

Members of Indonesia's Marine Police pray on board a search and rescue ship before embarking on the hunt for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Pangkal Pinang port in Sumatra Island
It came as officials 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.
AirAsia’s fleet of short-haul jets was already being fitted with upgraded tracking devices, but the A320 jetliner had not yet been modified when it went missing, the Wall Street Journal has reported.
The developments will bring further anguish to relatives those on board who are desperately clinging to hope they may find survivors.


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