Missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was flying ‘about 160 km/h too slow’ when it encountered bad weather conditions, according to aviation experts. And now as the search resumes for the Airbus A320, which went missing at 6.17am on Sunday morning while travelling from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board, speculation on what may have happened points to weather, speed and an older radar system.
On Monday, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, Henry Bambang Sulistyo, said that the plane is most likely ‘at the bottom of the sea’. Mr Sulistyo told a press conference:
‘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. That’s the preliminary suspicion and it can develop based on the evaluation of the result of our search.’
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas spoke to several check captains and believes the pilot of the QZ8501 encountered difficult weather conditions but flew too slow in his efforts to avoid it.
‘The QZ8501 was flying too slow, about 100 knots which is about 160 km/h too slow. ‘I have a radar plot which shows him at 36,000 feet and climbing at a speed of 353 knots, which is approximately 100 knots too slow. At that altitude that’s exceedingly dangerous. Pilots believe that the crew, in trying to avoid the thunderstorm by climbing, somehow have found themselves flying too slow and thus induced an aerodynamic stall similar to the circumstances of the loss of Air France AF447 to crash in 2009,’ Mr Thomas told AAP.
The Air France AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 while en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris.
Meanwhile, the billionaire CEO of AirAsia has described missing flight QZ8501 as his ‘worst nightmare’ as the massive air and sea search for the plane resumed at first light on Monday. A massive search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday but was suspended for the night due to unworkable conditions.
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Tony Fernandes spoke of his horror over the situation after the plane lost contact with air traffic control with 155 passengers and seven crew members on board at about 6.17am local time, a short time after the pilot asked to deviate from the flight path due to ‘bad weather’.
‘We have no idea at the moment what went wrong,’ Mr Fernandes, said at a press conference on Sunday. ‘Let’s not speculate at the moment.’
He later posted a tweet on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon saying: ‘Keeping positive and staying strong. My heart bleeds for all the relatives of the crew and passengers. Nothing is more important to us.’
The 50-year-old prominent South East Asian businessman Fernandes, owner of English football club Queens Park Rangers, built AirAsia from a small, heavily indebted company to a huge low-cost airline after buying it for just 50 cent in 2001. He later expanded into long-hail flights with the AirAsia X brand.
AirAsia flight QZ8501 departed Surabaya, in Indonesia, on Sunday at 5.30am local time, and was scheduled to land at Changi Airport, in Singapore, at 8.30am (Singapore local time). The scenes of anguish were reminiscent of those in March 2014, when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 lost contact with air traffic control several hundred miles north of Singapore. No trace of the craft has been found.
The pilot of the plane has been named as Captain Iriyanto, while the co-pilot is believed to be Frenchman Remi Emmanual Plesel. A picture of the pilot has been posted on social media by his daughter Angela Ranastianis. His nephew praised Capt Irianto as ‘a very caring person’
A family including a groom to be and his parents and brother were reportedly among those onboard.
Fox News reports that Alain Oktavianus Siaun and his family were intending to enjoy one last holiday together before he married. His fiancee Louise Sidharta told the Star in Malaysia she was trying to stay positive.
‘I heard it on the radio and immediately browsed the Internet and saw the news. My heart knew by then that my fiancé was on that flight. We have to stay positive and hope that they (loved ones) could be found soon,’ she added.
AirAsia confirmed there were 155 passengers on board – including 138 adults, 16 children and one infant – and also stated there were two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board.
Nationalities of passengers and crew onboard are one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one British, one French, three South Koreans and 155 Indonesians.