ATM Modernization, Commercial

Authorities to Expand Search for Missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501

By Juliet Van Wagenen | December 29, 2014
Send Feedback


[Avionics Today 12-29-2014] The search for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 that was all but halted overnight resumed in daylight hours, with officials set to expand the search for the commercial airliner on Tuesday. The aircraft disappeared from Indonesian airspace yesterday, Dec. 28 at 7:24 a.m. Singapore time about halfway through its flight path from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. The Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 passengers and crewmembers lost contact with Jakarta Air Traffic Control (ATC) over the Java Sea more than 200 nautical miles southeast of the Singapore-Jakarta Flight Information Region (FIR) boundary, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) reports. This marks the third aviation tragedy this year, following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over a Ukrainian conflict zone.

An Airbus A320-216 aircraft (PK-AXC) of Indonesia AirAsia at Singapore Changi Airport on August 7, 2011
An Airbus A320-216 aircraft (PK-AXC) of Indonesia AirAsia at Singapore Changi Airport in 2011. Photo: Aero Icarus, WikiCommons

Weather conditions may have played a role in the disappearance, as the pilots aboard AirAsia QZ8501 requested to change course with the aim to avoid extreme conditions shortly before losing contact with ATC. “The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control,” AirAsia confirmed in a statement released on its website. The pilots requested to turn left to avoid clouds and increase altitude from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet. The request to turn left was approved while the request to climb to 38,000 feet. was denied due to heavy traffic in the area.

The flight did not report an emergency before losing contact, according to Jakarta ATC, with the airline also noting that the aircraft had undergone its last scheduled maintenance on Nov. 16, 2014.

Currently, several nations are assisting in the search for the missing aircraft. The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) has launched an international search and rescue mission Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia with ships, helicopters and airplanes aiding in the hunt in the region surrounding the plane’s last known coordinates. Thus far, no debris has been located, with the aircraft’s flight track pointing to a grim outlook.

"(Because) the coordinate that was given to us and the evolution from the calculation point of the flight track is at sea, our early conjecture is that the plane is in the bottom of the sea," Bambang Sulistyo, head of the BASARNAS, told reporters in a press conference Monday.

Flight path (top), superimposed on false-color water-vapor-band infrared satellite image at 07:32 WIB (bottom). Blue represents warmer temperatures, while red and ultimately black represents the cold tops of high-altitude clouds.
Flight path (top), superimposed on false-color water-vapor-band infrared satellite image at 07:32 WIB (bottom). Blue represents warmer temperatures, while red and ultimately black represents the cold tops of high-altitude clouds. Photo: Chiteskoy, WikiCommons

Airbus confirmed the make and model of the aircraft and provided the following information: “The aircraft involved is MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 3648, registered as PK-AXC and was delivered to AirAsia from the production line in October 2008. Powered by CFM 56-5B engines, the aircraft had accumulated approximately 23,000 flight hours in some 13,600 flights. At this time no further factual information is available.”

Rescue efforts are set to continue over the next several days, with authorities poised to report any new information as it comes to light.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this incident,” AirAsia said in a statement released following the confirmation of the missing aircraft. “We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident. In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments.”

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox