Sunday, December 28, 2014

AirAsia Flight 8501 Investigation to Involve Indonesian Police: Search for Aircraft Wreckage Continues, No Sign of ‘Black Box’ Flight Recorders

A member of the Indonesian Navy looks toward an object believed to be from the AirAsia plane, Saturday.

The Wall Street Journal 
By ANITA RACHMAN in Surabaya, Indonesia, and  BEN OTTO and I MADE SENTANA in Jakarta, Indonesia

Updated Jan. 5, 2015 6:32 a.m. ET

Indonesia’s police chief said he is sending a team to join the investigation into what happened to AirAsia Flight 8501 as the search for the aircraft’s “black box” recorders continued Monday.

With poor weather and visibility hampering the search, attention remained on the procedures taken by AirAsia and Indonesian aviation authorities in the lead up to the Dec. 28 crash. Gen. Sutarman, who only uses one name, said a police team will join the government investigation and examine whether AirAsia had broken any laws.

Djoko Murjatmodjo, the Transportation Ministry’s acting director-general of civil aviation, meanwhile ordered the suspension of officials at Surabaya’s international airport, where the flight originated, and said that airlines would be forced to comply with more stringent pre-departure regulations.

Mr. Murjatmodjo said the aviation director general at the airport in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, used incorrect information in granting AirAsia a takeoff slot for the flight. On Saturday, Mr. Murjatmodjo said the airline was permitted to fly the Surabaya to Singapore route four days a week, but not on Sunday, which was when it crashed in the Java Sea.

AirAsia Indonesia’s chief executive, Sunu Widyatmoko, said Saturday that the company would cooperate fully with the transport ministry’s investigation. The airline didn’t comment Monday on the police joining the investigation, which is being led by the Transportation Ministry and the National Transportation Safety Committee.

Flight 8501 was carrying 162 people, most of whom were Indonesian. Around three dozen bodies have been recovered. The flight recorders, which would provide information on the cause of the crash, haven’t been located even though Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency says it has identified five large parts of the aircraft on the seabed. Poor conditions have prevented divers from reaching the wreckage.

Suyadi Bambang Supriyadi, operations director for Indonesia’s search agency, said late Monday that the search area will be expanded and the mission will shift toward looking for debris and the plane’s “black box” recorders and away from bodies. He said searchers have yet to detect pings from the plane’s black box and added that seats from the jet have been recovered. He said they are believed to be from the plane’s front section.

While investigators and air-safety experts say it is too early to identify a specific reason for the crash, Indonesia’s weather agency said icing was the most likely of possible weather-related factors. The plane dropped off radar screens without a mayday call as it flew close to a collection of intense, high-altitude thunderstorms.

AirAsia said the pilot had carried out a so-called self-briefing of weather conditions before the flight, meaning he evaluated data from Indonesia’s meteorological agency. In places such as North America and Europe, dispatchers assemble weather information, route forecasts, detailed flight plans and fuel calculations for pilots.

Joseph Miceli, president of the Airline Dispatchers Federation, a Washington-based volunteer association representing dispatchers, said the pilot-dependent approach would be totally unacceptable in the U.S.

Since the crash, Indonesia’s transport minister, Ignasius Jonan, has said self-briefings are insufficient to fully prepare for inclement weather. On Dec. 31, the ministry issued a circular requiring airlines to directly brief their pilots on weather before departure, said Mr. Murjatmodjo. He added that an official rule will follow, though he didn’t say when.

Mr. Jonan has also ordered an internal investigation of the ministry’s civil aviation office to see if any officials gave AirAsia permission to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route outside the permitted days, according to Hadi Mustofa Djuraid, an official at the Transportation Ministry.

“This is a significant step (showing) that the minister doesn’t solely put the blame on AirAsia,” Mr. Djuraid said.

AirAsia’s Surabaya-Singapore route has been suspended since Friday. The airline used to have the slot on every day of the week, but it was cut to Monday, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for Oct. 26 to March 28. The Transportation Ministry said it would investigate AirAsia and other airlines for slot violations.

Four more bodies from the plane were identified in Surabaya on Monday, bringing the total to 13. Helicopters flew search flights over the sea and along the coast in an effort to find additional bodies, while vessels continued their search. The U.S., Japan and Russia are among the countries contributing to the effort with vessels, equipment and personnel.


Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320-200, PK-AXC, Flight QZ-8501

An Indonesian navy crew member searched for parts of AirAsia Flight 8501 above the Karimata Strait.

Indonesian police stand on the deck of a National Search and Rescue Agency ship during a search operation for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in the Java Sea on Jan. 3.

In Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, bodies retrieved from the AirAsia plane crash are taken to an aircraft heading for Surabaya on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015

Crew members on an Indonesian Air Force helicopter searched for bodies from AirAsia Flight 8501 over Kumai Bay, Indonesia on Friday.


Two coffins carrying victims of AirAsia flight 8501 arrived at Juanda Naval Air Base in Surabaya on Wednesday. 

Members of an Indonesian search-and-rescue team carried the body of a passenger from AirAsia Flight 8501 in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan Province on Wednesday. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, on left, talks with AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes, on right, Tuesday. Mr. Fernandes addressed the media after meeting with relatives of those on Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, whose debris was found in waters near the island of Borneo. European Pressphoto Agency 

Members of the Indonesian air force show items retrieved from the Java Sea during the search for AirAsia flight QZ8501, in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan on Tuesday. 


An unidentified object, found during a search and rescue operation for the missing AirAsia plane, is seen floating off the coast of Pangkalan Bun, Borneo, Indonesia. 


Indonesian air force crew scan the horizon in a C-130 airplane during a search operation for AirAsia Flight 8501 over the Karimata Strait in Indonesia, Monday. Search planes and ships from several countries were scouring waters over which the AirAsia plane disappeared early Sunday. 

Indonesian air force crew members scan cloudy skies during a search operation for Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501. 

Indonesian transport officials survey an air routes map at Sukarno Hatta International airport in Cengkareng, Banten, Indonesia. 
Bagus Indahono/European Pressphoto Agency 

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