News and Views
AirAsia flight QZ8501 vanished in area known as the ‘Thunderstorm Factory’
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.