AirAsia plane found as bodies return home

Search and rescue teams believe they have found the main fuselage of the missing AirAsia jet.

Investigating an oil slick in the Karimata Strait, which separates the Java Sea from the South China Sea, Indonesia’s National Search & Rescue Agency (Basarnas) said it has discovered several large parts of the stricken Airbus A320 on the seabed.

AirAsia Indonesia operates a fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft
AirAsia Indonesia operates a fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft

“Four parts were located within the limits of the priority search area, close to one another,” Basarnas chief Vice Marshal FHB Soelistyo told Indonesia’s Antara news agency. “I am very sure those two objects are part of the fuselage of the plane we have been looking for.”

The discovery came a week after flight QZ8501 went missing from radar. Bad weather is believed to be the most likely caused of the crash, with pilots having requested to change their flight path shortly before contact was lost. Indonesia’s meteorological agency, BMKG, said it believes the aircraft flew into a storm.

“From our data it looks like the last location of the plane had very bad weather and it was the biggest factor behind the crash,” Edvin Aldrian, BMKG’s head of research was quoted saying by the BBC. “These icy conditions can stall the engines of the plane and freeze and damage the plane’s machinery.”

Until the aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders are discovered however, the exact cause of the crash will remain unclear. Bad weather and rough seas continue to hamper recovery efforts.

A total of 155 passengers and seven crew members were onboard the flight QZ8501 when it crashed, the vast majority of whom where Indonesian citizens. More than 30 bodies have now been recovered from the search area and transported back to Surabaya.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s aviation authorities have withdrawn AirAsia’s permit for the Surabaya-Singapore route. It has emerged that the airline was only permitted to operate the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, raising major questions about why Sunday’s flight plan was approved and the aircraft permitted to depart.

AirAsia launched the Surabaya-Singapore route in July 2013. Prior to the loss of flight QZ8501, the Malaysia-based group had never suffered a single crash or passenger fatality.

QZ8501 – Last Moments

28 December 2014 (Singapore time)

0635: Flight departs Surabaya Juanda Airport (approx. 15 minutes late)
0712: Pilot requests to climb to 38,000 feet to avoid bad weather
0717: Radar contact with aircraft lost. No mayday call issued
0830: Scheduled arrival time at Singapore Changi Airport
1122: Search and rescue operation launched

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