Revealed: Pilot of missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people was denied request to climb in stormy weather
– as search zeroes in on two oil patches found floating on sea
- Search and rescue chief says plane is most likely 'at the bottom of the sea'
- 'Suspicious objects' spotted 1,120km from where Airbus A320 lost contact
- Indonesian helicopter saw two oily spots in search area Monday afternoon
- Experts claim jet may have stalled because it was flying 160km too slow
- Last contact was request by pilot to increase altitude due to bad weather
- Air traffic control couldn't grant request because another plane was in way
- The AirAsia flight QZ8501 departed Indonesia early on Sunday morning
- It was scheduled to land at Singapore's Changi Airport on Sunday morning
- Last contact at 6.12am - then plane vanished from radar six minutes later
- There were a total of 155 passengers on board and seven crew members
- AirAsia boasted it would 'never lose a plane' days after MH370 vanished
A pilot on board the missing AirAsia plane was denied a request to increase altitude to avoid storm clouds minutes before the jet disappeared, it emerged today.
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.
However, the request could not immediately be granted because another plane was in the airspace at 34,000ft, said Bambang Tjahjono, director of the state-owned company in charge of air-traffic control.
By the time clearance could be given, Flight 8501 had disappeared, he added.
Details of the jet's last moments emerged as planes hunting for the Airbus A320 revealed they had spotted objects and oil patches in the sea inside the search zone.
The announcements will bring further anguish to relatives of the 162 passengers and crew who are desperately clinging to hope they may find survivors despite one official saying the jet was most likely 'at the bottom of the sea'.
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the jet went missing en route from Indonesia to Singapore
area on Monday afternoon
Jakarta's Air Force base commander Rear Marshal Dwi Putranto said an Australian Orion aircraft had detected suspicious objects around 1,120km from the point of last contact.
An Indonesian helicopter also spotted two oily spots this afternoon close to where a group of Indonesian fishermen claimed to have heard a crash near the island of Pulau Nangka.
Rear Marshal Dwi Putranto said the objects were spotted near Nangka island, about 160 kilometres south-west of Pangkalan Bun, near central Kalimantan.
But he added: 'We cannot be sure whether it is part of the missing AirAsia plane. We are now moving in that direction, which is in cloudy conditions.'
Indonesia's vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, also said there is 'insufficient evidence' the objects were from the missing AirAsia plane.
The search was later suspended for a second night.
Airport as they wait for news of the search and rescue operation
Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, Indonesia
AIRASIA BOASTED IT WOULD 'NEVER LOSE A PLANE' DAYS AFTER MH370
Waters in the search area, which is roughly the size of California, are not particularly deep at between 130ft and 160ft.
The flight went missing at 6.17am local time on Sunday while travelling from Indonesia to Singapore as speculation on the cause of the disappearance centred on weather, speed and an older radar system.
Aviation experts have speculated that the flight may have encountered 'black storm cells' which caused a build-up of ice on airspeed senors known as pitot tubes.
A similar scenario was blamed for the Air France disaster when Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 while en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris.
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas spoke to several check captains and believes the pilot of 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. At that altitude that's exceedingly dangerous,' Mr Thomas said.
'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.'
'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 ... if the radar return is correct, he appears to be going too slow for the altitude he is flying at,' Mr Thomas said.
Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia
Mr Thomas said this should not happen in an A320, so it appears as though it was related to extreme weather conditions.
'He got caught in a massive updraft or something like that. Something's gone terribly wrong,'
'Essentially the plane is flying too slow to the altitude and the thin air, and the wings won't support it at that speed and you get a stall, an aerodynamic stall.'
The A320, while sophisticated, is not equipped with the latest radar, Mr Thomas said.
The radar used by the A320 can sometimes have problems in thunderstorms and the pilot
may have been deceived by the severity of these particular ones.
The latest technology radars, which were pioneered by Qantas in 2002, can give a more complete and accurate reading of a thunderstorm, but they will not be certified for the A320
until next year.
'If you don't have what's called a multi-skilled radar you have to tilt the radar yourself manually, you have to look down to the base of the thunderstorm to see what the intensity of the moisture and the rain is, then you make a judgment of how bad it is. It's manual, so it's possible to make a mistake, it has happened,' Mr Thomas explained.
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 on board are one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one British, one French, three South Koreans and 155 Indonesians.
Earlier Monday, Indonesia search and rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said it seemed certain that the plane had crashed.
'Based on the co-ordinates that we know, the evaluation would be that any estimated crash position is in the sea, and that the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea,' he said.
The last communication from the cockpit to air traffic control was a request by one of the pilots to increase altitude from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet because of the rough weather.
for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Pangkal Pinang port in Sumatra Island
Air traffic control was not able to immediately grant the request because another plane was in airspace at 34,000 feet, said Bambang Tjahjono, director of the state-owned company in charge of air-traffic control.
By the time clearance could be given, Flight 8501 had disappeared, Tjahjono said.
The twin-engine, single-aisle plane, which never sent a distress signal, was last seen on radar four minutes after the last communication from the cockpit.
Search efforts for the plane's wreckage resumed on Monday and have been focused around the area of the Java Sea near Belitung.
Boats have been sent from Tanjung Pandan, the largest town on Belitung Island, but are not expected to reach the area until midnight local time, due to inclement weather and sea conditions, reported The Sun Herald.
search and rescue operation of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501
Meanwhile, the billionaire CEO of AirAsia described missing flight QZ8501 as his 'worst nightmare' as the massive air and sea search for the plane resumed at first light on Monday.
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'.
Upon arriving in Indonesia, Mr Fernandez gave a press conference to family and friends of those on board the plane and said the focus should be on the search and the families.
'We have no idea at the moment what went wrong,' Mr Fernandes, who founded the regional low-cost carrier in 2001 when it was in debt and worth just 50 cent, said on Sunday.
'Let's not speculate at the moment.'
The 50-year-old 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.
Mr Fernandes 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.'
He described the missing plane as his 'worst nightmare' on Twitter
beacon detector that will be used to assist in locating the flight recorders
A massive search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday but was suspended for the night due to unworkable conditions.
The fishing boats and official vessels that were sent out by Indonesia's national search and rescue authority, along with helicopters and Hercules aircraft from Singapore, set out again at sunrise on Monday morning.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered the nation's help to assist in the search on Sunday.
Despite comparisons of QZ8501 to this year's earlier Malaysia Airlines tragedies, Mr Abbott said the AirAsia flight's disappearance was a tragedy but 'This is not a mystery like the MH370 disappearance and it's not an atrocity like the MH17 shooting down'.
MH370 disappeared in March while on its way from Malaysia to China when it lost contact. The aircraft has not been seen since.
Five months later, MH17 was flying over Ukrainian airspace when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people on board the flight died, including 38 Australians.
Mr Abbott was speaking on Macquarie Radio on Monday, adding: 'It's an aircraft that was flying a regular route on a regular schedule, it struck what appears to have been horrific weather and it's downed'.
But the Australian Defence Force deployed a RAAF AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft to assist on Monday,' the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said the aircraft had 'a well-proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors'.
due to bad weather
The scenes of anguish at Singapore's Changi Airport 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 aircraft has been found.
The pilot of the AirAsia 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.
Cpt Iriyanto's nephew told Indonesian news outlet Detik.com his uncle, who is married with two young children, was 'a very caring person'.
'He is always helping people because he is a very caring person. If there is a sick relative who needed help and even money, my uncle would be there,' the relative said.
'If there are money problems in the family, he would surely help.'
A family including a groom-to-be and his parents and brother were reportedly among those onboard.
Fox News reported 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.
She said: '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.'
But Ms Sidharta said she would not give up.
'We have to stay positive and hope that they [loved ones] could be found soon,' she said.
The British passenger aboard the missing AirAsia flight was travelling with his two-year-old Singaporean daughter after other family members got an earlier flight from Indonesia, it is believed.
It is thought the British father, named as Chi Man Choi, and his daughter Zoe, were returning to Singapore and planned to reunite with the young girl's Singaporean mother, who travelled on an earlier flight from Surabaya, in Indonesia, with Zoe's older brother.
flight lost its contact with Air Asia Surabaya-Singapore route
Mr Choi, who is believed to be from Hull in Yorkshire originally and who graduated from the University of Essex, was the managing director at an energy company in Indonesia.
He purchased his plane ticket and that of his daughter's on Boxing Day - according to the passenger manifest - and they were seated in the first row, in seats 1B and 1C.
The Foreign Office was unable to formally confirm the British national's identity but confirmed a Briton was on board and next of kin had been informed.
A spokesman said: 'We are aware of an incident regarding AirAsia flight QZ8501.
'Our thoughts are with the passengers' families as they await further news.
'We have been informed by the local authorities that one British national was on board.
'Their next of kin has been informed, and we stand ready to provide consular assistance.'
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Jakarta said it was working with local authorities to establish further details.
It is believed the three South Koreans on the plane were Park Seong-beom, 37, his wife Lee Kyung-hwa, 36, and their 12-month daughter Park Yuna.
According to officials at Yeosu First Presbyterian Church, the couple had been sent to Indonesia as Christian missionaries and were travelling to Singapore to renew their visas.
Malaysia Airlines, who has lost two carrier engines this year, released a tweet in support of Air Asia
According to Indonesia's Director of Air Transport, Djoko Murjatmodjo, contact with the aircraft was lost between Tanjung Pandan and Pontianak, a trading port city in west Kalimantan about 100 nautical miles south east of Tanjung Pandan.
AirAsia Indonesia announced the flight's disappearance via a statement on Facebook which said: '[It] regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07.24hrs this morning'.
'At the present time, we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available,' it said.
'At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.'
It later issued a statement confirming it had set up emergency briefing rooms for family members of the missing passengers at both airports.
Sunu Widyatmoko, chief executive of AirAsia Indonesia, said: 'We are deeply shocked and saddened by this incident.
TIMELINE OF AIRASIA FLIGHT QZ8501
'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.
'We will do everything possible to support them as the investigation continues and have already mobilized a support team to help take care of their immediate needs, including accommodation and travel arrangements.'
Tatang Zaenudin, deputy of personnel at Basarnas, said that the agency was working to approve flights from Australia to aid with the huge operation to locate the plane, reported The Sun Herald.
AirAsia has changed the colour of its logo from red to grey as a mark of respect to the missing plane.
The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC.
An A320 pilot writing on the aviation forum Aviation.net said the weather as the Air Asia flight headed north east was 'nasty' but he believed that it would not be enough to cause a major structural failure.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AIRASIA
'While the weather on the route looks rather nasty, I have always found that the A320 is a really sold aircraft in turbulence,' the pilot, writing from Canada, said
'I've flown it through bad winter storms, tropical thunderstorms and all sorts of combined weather and I've never felt that the aircraft was being held together on a hope and a prayer.'
Other crew members lost along with the pilot and co-pilot were four flight attendants are listed as Wanti Setiawati, Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, Oscar Desano and Wismoyo Ari Prambudi as well as technician Saiful Rakhmad.
On Christmas Eve, Desano wrote on Twitter: 'Merry Christmas to all my beautiful friends who celebrate it.'
He also posted a picture of himself wearing his Air Asia identification tag.
AirAsia flies mostly in the South East Asian area, its reach being as far as Sydney and the Queensland Gold Coast.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement to Fairfax Media, saying it was checking with the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian High Commissioner in Singapore to see if any of the passengers were holding an Australian passport.
'Those concerned about the welfare of their Australian family and friends who were known to be travelling on this flight should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas),' the statement read.
The United States has also offered to help with the search.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: 'Our hearts and hopes are with the passengers and families of AirAsia QZ8501.'
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number for the hotline is +622129850801.