AirAsia QZ8501: possible Sonar Image of plane detected underwater

DECEMBER 31, 2014

 A sonar image of a dark object under water presumed to be missing AirAsia plane has been found, Indonesian officials said on Wednesday. The sonar image indicates that the plane may be belly-up in the Java sea.

Meanwhile, bad weather is hampering ships and planes resumed the search for wreckage, bodies and black boxes of a doomed AirAsia plane on Wednesday after Indonesian rescuers found several bodies and debris floating in shallow waters off the coast of Borneo.

Indonesia's search-and-rescue agency had obtained a sonar image it says may be the body of the missing plane at the bottom of the Java Sea, the Wall Street Journal said.

The newspaper quoted the agency as saying the image appeared to show an aircraft upside down in 24-30 meters (78-98 feet) of water.

But waves two to three meters (six to nine feet) high and winds prevented divers from searching the crash zone for the sunken remains.

Flight QZ8501 had 162 people on board when it vanished during bad weather on Sunday, about 40 minutes into its flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Aviation experts believe that, weather permitting, the fuselage may be easily found by divers as the aircraft probably only broke up when it hit the water.

Searchers found three bodies on Wednesday morning, including a flight attendant, bringing the total to six so far, said the head of the search and rescue agency, Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo.

The fully clothed bodies could indicate the plane was intact when it hit the water and support a theory that the Airbus A320-200 suffered an aerodynamic stall and plunged into the sea.

"The fact that the debris appears fairly contained suggests the aircraft broke up when it hit the water, rather than in the air," said Neil Hansford, a former pilot and chairman of consultancy firm Strategic Aviation Solutions.

Most of the people on board were Indonesians. No survivors have been found.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said his priority was getting bodies off the bottom of the Karimata Strait in the Java Sea, where rescuers retrieved a plane door and other debris on Tuesday, so victims could be identified.

"I feel a deep loss over this disaster and pray for the families to be given fortitude and strength," Widodo said in Surabaya on Tuesday after grim images of the scene in the Java Sea were broadcast on television.

AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes has described the crash as his "worst nightmare".

Widodo said AirAsia would pay an immediate advance of money to relatives, many of whom collapsed in grief when they saw the television pictures of debris and a body. -Reuters

The United States said its destroyer USS Sampson and combat ship USS Fort Worth were awaiting instructions from the Indonesian search command on the recovery operation. Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to pick up pings from the black boxes, which contain cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

About 30 ships and 21 aircraft from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the United States have been involved in the search.

Photo: ABC news

Read more: AIRASIA QZ8501: SMOKE SPOTTED ON ISLAND