AirAsia QZ8501: Divers resume search for missing jetliner

JANUARY 5, 2015

Indonesia’s navy divers took advantage of calmer seas on Monday to resume efforts to identify a suspected wreckage of the missing Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 as no signal has yet been detected from the passenger jet’s black box recorders.

Ships and aircraft seeking debris and bodies from the Airbus A320-200 also widened their search area to allow for currents eight days after Flight QZ8501 presumably plunged into the Java Sea en-route from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore with 162 people on board.

Helicopters searched the coastal areas.

"The weather is quite conducive. The visibility is six kilometres, there's no low cloud, the wind is calm," Air Force Lt Col Jhonson Supriadi said.

"With our calculations of currents this strong, every day this operational area is extended."

Indonesia's meteorological agency said seasonal tropical storms probably contributed to the December 28 crash and the weather has persistently hampered efforts to recover bodies and find the cockpit voice and flight data recorders that should explain why the plane crashed.

Peter Marosszeky, a senior aviation research fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, also blamed the weather for the delay in finding the black box recorders, which are designed to emit pings that can be detected by sonar for a month after a crash.

"The seas haven't been very friendly, but the black boxes have a 30-day life and they will be able to find them, particularly in the shallow waters," he said.

"It's the weather that is causing the delay."

Focus area

The search is focussing on an area about 90 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo island, where five large objects believed to be parts Flight QZ8501 - the largest about 18 metres long - have been recovered.

Thirty-four bodies of the mostly Indonesian passengers and crew have so far been recovered, including some still strapped in their seats.

Many more may be still trapped in the body of the aircraft.

The crash was the first fatal accident suffered by the AirAsia budget group, whose Indonesian affiliate flies from at least 15 destinations across the sprawling archipelago.

AirAsia license questioned

AirAsia’s has come under pressure from Indonesian authorities, who have suspended its Surabaya to Singapore operations saying the carrier only had a licence to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

However, a joint statement from Singapore's civil aviation authority (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group said that AirAsia had the necessary approvals to operate a daily flight between Surabaya and Singapore.