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Prepare for the worst, says Jakarta
Published:  Dec 29, 2014 8:00 AM
Updated: Dec 30, 2014 4:10 AM

QZ8501 AirAsia's Surabaya-Singapore flight carrying 155 passengers and seven crew members on board went missing yesterday.

The Airbus 320-200 took off from Surabaya in Java, Indonesia, at 5.20am local time (6.20am Malaysian time) and was due to arrive in Singapore two hours later, but it lost contact with air traffic control.

Indonesian authorities launched search and rescue (SAR) efforts yesterday but failed to produce results, and reports that the plane may have crashed near Belituing Island off the coast of Sumatra have not been confirmed.

Malaysiakini brings you the live updates of information as it comes in.

Latest developments

  • Debris spotted in search area, source unconfirmed

  • Rescue party says no sign of plane's emergency signal
  • AirAsia shares plunge 12.9 percent
  • Indonesia's SAR chief says plane 'likely at the bottom sea'
  • Search and rescue operations resume

    8.00pm: The aerial search operation is suspended as as night falls and will resume at first light tomorrow.

    According to Reuters , Indonesia's Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan says ships will still continue the search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 through the night.

    Jonan adds that the operation is focusing on an area of 70 nautical kilometres square between the island of Belitung and Borneo Island.

    The water there is only 50 to 100 metres deep, which will help the operation, he says.

    Object spotted not confirmed'

    5.52pm: Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla says he has been informed about the alleged wreckage found in the Java Sea by an Australian surveillance aircraft.

    However, Jusuf says he cannot confirm the finding until further analysis is conducted, reports Channel News Asia .

    He adds that the search and rescue operations will continue without any fixed time frame and is "prepared for the worst".

    The vice president says a multinational team comprising some 30 ships and aircraft are scouring the area of AirAsia QZ8501's last known location and local fishermen are also being roped in to help.

    He says UK and France are the latest countries to offer help and Indonesia is considering the offer.

    Meanwhile, Air Asia group chief executive officer Tony Fenandes says his airliner will not be going into compensation issues as yet, as the search for the missing aircraft is ongoing.

    Plane not alone at time it went missing

    5.20pm: AirAsia QZ8501 was not the lone plane in the sky in that area at the time it was last located, says an authority on Indonesian air navigation.

    The director of safety and standards of Air Navigation of Indonesia, Wisnu Darjono, said there were seven other aeroplanes near the ill-fated QZ8501 at the same time it allegedly crashed.

    Three of the seven others - Uni Emirates Arab 406, AirAsia 502, and AirAsia 550 - were flying at the same level, Wisnu was reported as saying by

    4.40pm: An oil slick has been found in the waters of Belitung where the missing plane was last located on radar, according to .

    However, authorities say that the oil slick may be from vessels which use the surrounding waters.

    "We are heading towards there with helicopters and airplanes," a communications director connected to the search and recue operations adds.

    Debris spotted but cannot be confirmed

    3.12pm: An Australian Orion aircraft involved in the search and rescue operations on the missing flight QZ8501 has detected an object which is likely to be connected with the ill-fated plane.

    According to , Indonesian air force chief of operations marshall Dwi Putranto has confirmed receiving reports on the spotting.

    The object is said to have been spotted 700 miles away from the last location where the plane was detected before it went missing.

    "Our aircrafts have been directed towards the location," Dwi adds. 

    2.46pm: The pilot of the missing flight had logged a total of 20,537 flying hours to date, says AirAsia.     

    Of the total number of hours, the captain had 6,100 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia on the Airbus A320, it says in a statement today.     

    "The first officer had a total of 2,275 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia," it adds.    

    Still no sign of emergency signal


    Despite a large scale search for QZ8501 in the Java Sea, there is no sign of any signal from the aircraft's emergency locator transmitter (ELT), according to Indonesia's state news agency Antaranews.

    The country's Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo says the ELT should emit a signal when an aircraft crashes, but rescue workers have yet to detect it.

    Meanwhile, Reuters reports the insurer for AirAsia is also the lead insurer for Malaysia Airlines's twin disasters involving Flight MH370.

    "We can confirm that Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty UK (AGCS) is the lead reinsurer for AirAsia, for aviation hull and liability insurance," an Allianz spokesperson is quoted saying.

    Reuters estimates the insurance payout to be at least USD100 million.

    1.45pm: AirAsia Indonesia plans to retire its QZ8501 flight code, after its aircraft using the number disappeared yesterday morning.

    AirAsia Indonesia chief executive officer Sunu Widyatmoko is quoted as saying that the proposal has been forwarded to the airliner's headquarters, according to The Star Online .

    "We are still waiting for approval and coordination from headquarters," he adds.

    Malaysia Airlines - which experienced twin air disasters this year - had also retired flight codes MH17 and MH370 out of respect for the victims on board the ill-fated flights.

    1.30pm: The wife of the sole Malaysian passenger on board AirAsia Flight QZ8501 is an associate professor at Univerisiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Kuching.

    The Malaysian passenger was yesterday identified as Jakarta-based businessman Sii Chung Huei, who hails from Sarawak.

    His wife, associate professor Annie Wong Muk Ngiik is a senior lecturer at the UiTM's Faculty of Business and Management in Kuching, reports Bernama .

    In a statement, state university rector Jamil Hamali says she is deeply saddened for Wong and urged the media to respect her privacy.

    1.19pm: AirAsia group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, who was in Jakarta in communicate with the search and rescue team, is now on his way to Surabaya to be with the families of passengers on board the missing Flight QZ8501.

    “Keeping positive and staying strong. My heart bleeds for all the relatives of my crew and our passengers.

    “Nothing is more important to us,” he says in a Twitter posting.

    Meanwhile, China is offering its assets to assist the search and rescue operation led by Indonesia.

    “The Chinese side has already said to Indonesia that it is willing to urgently send aircraft and ships to participate in search and rescue, and will provide other aid according to Indonesian needs,” China’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters.

    India has also offered to help. To date, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia have joined the search, while South Korea will be deploying a surveillance aircraft soon.

    12 noon: Indonesia will review the operations of AirAsia Indonesia, Reuters reports Indonesian Transportation Ministry as saying.

    "Much will be reviewed in terms of business operations and in terms of air transportation business, so that there are safety improvements," Transport Minister Ignatius Jonan said.

    11.40am: Luck was with an Indonesian family of 10 that was supposed to board Flight QZ8501 yesterday. They missed the flight as they had arrived late at the airport.

    Indonesian news portal Metronews quoted a family member, Ari Putro Cahyono, as saying the family had arrived at 5.30am as the flight was scheduled to depart at 7.20am.

    Ari said he did not read the email notifying him of the change of departure to 5.20am.

    Although the airline offered Ari and his family to board the next flight, they decided to cancel their trip to Singapore after being informed about 6.30am that the air traffic control had lost contact with QZ8501.

    11.00am: AirAsia shares plunge up to 12.9 percent when Bursa Malaysia opens this morning, following the lost Flight QZ8501 yesterday.

    AirAsia, which owns 49 percent of AirAsia Indonesia, saw its share price fall to as low as RM2.56, the biggest drop in three years.

    10.45am: Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo ( left ) has concluded the missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501 is likely "at the bottom of the sea ", according to AFP .

    "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," he is quoted as saying at a press conference in Jakarta.

    10.29am: The missing Airbus 320-200 lacks a real time engine diagnostics which could provide valuable clues to investigators on what went wrong with Flight QZ8501, reports Reuters .

    "This particular aircraft did not have the real-time remote engine diagnostics service," a General Electric (GE) spokesperson was quoted as saying.

    GE co-owns CFM International with Safran which built the aircraft.

    Such service is provided for long-haul flights and short-haul flights like this one are not normally equipped with it.

    The report noted the aircraft used in the flight is considered 'young', having been in service between six and seven years but having a life cycle of 25 years.

    10am: More than 100 distraught relatives of passengers on board Flight QZ8501 gathers at the makeshift crisis centre at Surabaya airport since yesterday, according to Reuters .

    Earlier, AirAsia group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes had personally comforted families at the airport.

    "We've been given accommodation from AirAsia but I cannot rest with this on my mind," a relative identified as Haryanto was quoted as saying.

    9am: During his Sunday address at St Peter's Square in the Vatican, Pope Francis ( right ) says those on board were in his prayers, reports Reuters today.


    Meanwhile Louise Sidharta was at Singapore's Changi Airport waiting for her fiancée to return from a family holiday. "It was supposed to be their last vacation before we got married," she says. 


    A man named Purnomo tells TVOne in Surabaya of his lucky escape. "I should have been on the flight ... but this morning I had an emergency. I had my passport in hand." 

    8.57am: The Foreign Ministry has opened a 24-hour operations room on missing flight QZ8501.

    A Bernama report stated that the 24-hour operations centre can be contacted at +603-88874570 and +603-88892746.

    7.54am: The Indonesian search and rescue operations resume this morning, reports ABC News . Yesterday's search was called off at sundown because of approaching nightfall and poor weather conditions during the heavy monsoon season.

    Meanwhile the United States says it is ready to help with the search for a missing AirAsia plane, the US State Department said on Sunday according to Reuters


    "Authorities in the region are leading the search for the missing airplane. As we have in the past, the United States stands ready to assist in any way that's helpful," the  department said in a statement. 

    There has still been no confirmation of Indonesian media reports yesterday that the plane may have crashed off the coast of Belitung Island, roughly a third of the distance to Singapore from Surabaya along the flight path.


    Singapore sends a second RSAF C-130 to join the search, according to local daily Today .



    Indonesia searches the Java Sea on Monday for an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people that went missing yesterday morning after its pilot failed to gain permission to alter course to avoid a storm cell during a flight from Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. 


    Flight QZ8501 did not issue a distress signal and disappeared five minutes after requesting a change of course on Sunday, says government and transport officials. 


    Air Force spokesperson Hasi Thahjanto says two C-130 Hercules planes are focusing their search efforts in areas northeast of Indonesia's Bangka island, which lies roughly halfway between Surabaya and Singapore, in the Java Sea.  Singapore says it has sent two naval vessels to help look for the Airbus A320-200 operated by Indonesia AirAsia, adding a C-130 took part in the search on Sunday. 


    Malaysia will send three naval vessels and a C-130 to assist, Singapore's Channel News Asia television reported. An Australian P3 Orion surveillance plane left Darwin to join the search, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio says. The United States, Britain, South Korea and India also offer help. 


    "We have been coordinating with parties from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia who have (expressed) a willingness to assist," Tataog Zainuddin, director of operations at the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency, tells Reuters


    Indonesia AirAsia is 49 percent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia. The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, has not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002. 


    Onboard Flight QZ8501 are 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one person each from Singapore, Malaysia and Britain, while the co-pilot is French. 


    There is bad weather in the area at the time and the aircraft has been flying at 32,000 feet before asking to fly at 38,000 feet to avoid clouds, says Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at Indonesia's transport ministry. 


    Permission has not yet been given due to traffic in the area, and five minutes later, at 6.17am on Sunday (local time), the plane lost contact with air traffic control, Atmodjo adds. 


    The pilot "is requesting deviation due to en-route weather before communication with the aircraft is lost," the airline notes. 


    "We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident," says Indonesia AirAsia Chief Executive Sunu Widyatmoko.  


    The incident caps a disastrous year for Malaysia-affiliated airlines. Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 went missing on March 8 on a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on board and has not been found. 


    On July 17, the same airline's Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

    Like all affiliates of AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia operates Airbus jets, of which it has 30 of the A320 model. 


    AirAsia has ordered several hundred jets from the European planemaker, making it one of its most important customers. The missing plane has been in service for just over six years, according to 


    Indonesian officials from the civil aviation authority and transport safety committee, which are responsible for crash investigations, arrived in Surabaya on Sunday. A transport ministry official said Indonesia would handle the probe. 


    "The aircraft was registered in Indonesia and it looks to be missing over Indonesian territory, so we will lead the investigation," said the official, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. 


    "We have the expertise to do this," Reuters reports .

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