It is believed the plane circled the sea near Belitung to avoid a storm before experiencing severe turbulence and crashed.
KUALA LUMPUR: An Indonesian search and rescue team has headed for the waters near Belitung island and a possible crash location of 03.22.46S 108.50.07E where a missing AirAsia aircraft might have gone down.
The Indonesian national search and rescue agency Basarnas was reported by Antara news agency to have sent a team to Belitung. The crash location is believed to be around 80-100 nautical miles from Belitung, said Supriandi, a spokesman for Basarnas in Pangkalpinang.
However the Aviation and Communications Ministry director, Djoko Murjatmodjo, would only say that the team is still looking for signs of wreckage around the area where the plane was last reported to have been seen.
SAR officials had said earlier that they believed the Airbus A320 could have circled over the sea near Belitung to avoid a storm before it experienced severe turbulence and crashed into the ocean. The Air Asia flight QZ8501, is reported to have had 155 passengers on board, of whom 16 were children.
An unconfirmed radar plot leaked to a professional pilots’ online forum purports to show that the aircraft was last tracked on radar climbing at 36,300ft but at only 353 knots.
This was slower than a nearby Emirates aircraft that was tracked at 503kts. A professional airline pilot speculated that the AirAsia aircraft’s slower speed could have been due to the plane’s rapid climb rate possibly coupled with strong headwinds.
The purported radar plot would be consistent with an official account that the pilot of QZ8501 requested clearance to climb to 38,000ft.
The sequence of events on Saturday morning, as reported at an Indonesia National SAR official briefing:
(all times local)
05:36 QZ8501 departed Juanda airport, Surabaya
06:12 Contacts Jakarta centre 125.70 at FL320, requests weather deviation left of M635 airway and climb to FL380
(The aircraft contacted Jakarta air traffic centre while at 32,000ft and requested a deviation leftwards of the M635 airway, and permission to climb to 38,000ft)
06:16 QZ8501 still observed on radar
06:17 Radar contact lost. Radio contact lost. Only ADS-B signal remained.
06:18 All contact lost. Only flight plan view on radar screen.
07:08 ATC declares INCERFA (aircraft position uncertain)
07:28 ATC declares ALERTFA (emergency alert)
07:55 ATC declares DETRESFA (emergency distress)