AirAsia QZ8501: First bodies returned to airport

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

AirAsia Flight 8501 Crash Highlights Booming Indonesia Airline Industry’s Safety Issues.

INDONESIA’S National Search and Rescue Agency chief confirmed that just three bodies have been recovered so far in the search for the AirAsia plane which crashed in the Java Sea, after another official said 40 had been found. “Today we evacuated three bodies and they are now in the warship Bung Tomo,” Bambang Soelistyo told a news conference in Jakarta, adding that they were two women and a man. At the end of a year in which public attention was gripped by air disasters, the first bodies of victims of Sunday’s AirAsia crash arrived back in the Indonesian city of Surabaya.Claims that plane has been found upside-down with fuselage intact lend weight to expert analysis that plane stalled in heavy equatorial weather, as more bodies found Indonesian Navy divers inspect their gear upon arrival for the search operation for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia Photo: AP Photo/Dewi Nurcahyani The apparent discovery of the crashed AirAsia plane lying intact and upside down – and disputed claims a victim was found wearing a life jacket – fuelled speculation the plane stalled in heavy equatorial weather, leaving its 162 passengers facing violent shudders before a sharp descent.JAKARTA, Indonesia — When a team of United Nations auditors visited Jakarta in May to rate the country’s aviation safety, they came to a troubling conclusion: Indonesia was well below the global average in every category, and scored just 61 percent in airworthiness.

Rescuers believe they have found the plane on the sea floor off Borneo, after sonar detected a large, dark object beneath waters near where debris and bodies were found on the surface. As 10-foot waves and thick cloud hampered rescue efforts, analysts reviewing the course and location of Flight QZ8501 suggested the pilot ascended sharply to avoid a storm but the manoeuvre failed, possibly because the weather damaged the plane’s instruments.

The audit reinforced the fact that Indonesia, which scored far worse than impoverished neighbors such as Laos and Myanmar, has a chronic problem with aviation safety. This would have caused the plane to shake fiercely before its nose pitched forward – and passengers would most likely have known that the plane was dropping. Conditions are less than ideal, with thunderstorms in the area creating rough seas, with reports at least six inches of rain are expected to be dumped throughout the night. As safety officials investigate how and why the pilots lost control of the jet, it has emerged that airlines were warned about over-reliance on automation 16 months ago.

Stephen Buzdygan, a former British Airways pilot, said that if the plane entered the water upside down this could be because it hit severe turbulence and then stalled before either gliding down or spinning out of control. Families who lost loved ones aboard the jetliner endured another excruciating day of waiting Wednesday as bad weather hindered efforts to recover any more bodies and sent wreckage drifting far from the crash site. “Help us, God, to move forward, even though we are surrounded by darkness,” the Rev. A report from US safety regulators expressed “concerns about degradation of pilot knowledge and skills” because modern aircraft are so technologically advanced.

The depth of the waters – about 80 feet – would suggest the plane could not have flipped after entry, he said. “If it is upside down in shallow water, that would suggest the aircraft became disoriented,” he told The Telegraph. “I would suggest that there was some sort of upset to the aircraft – severe downdrafts or clear air turbulence. But in a country of 17,000 islands, where cheap flights are replacing the ferry journeys that Indonesians use to take across the archipelago, the chances of dying on an Indonesian plane, while rare, are unacceptably high, experts say. The loss of Air France flight 447 five years ago, in which 228 people died, was due to pilot errors when equipment malfunctioned in stormy equatorial skies. Arnold Barnett, a statistician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in airline safety, said that the death rate in airplane crashes over the past decade in Indonesia was one per million passengers who boarded. Authorities in Surabaya were making preparations to receive and identify bodies, including arranging 130 ambulances to take victims to a police hospital and collecting DNA from relatives.

The FAA’s Flight Deck Automation Working Group warned in September 2013 of “a perceived erosion in basic knowledge required to manage the flight path” and called for pilots to practice flying manual during normal passenger operations. Relatives, many of whom collapsed in grief when they saw the first grim television pictures confirming their fears on Tuesday, held prayers at a crisis centre at Surabaya airport.

The group, comprising safety officials, aircraft manufacturers and airline executives, emphasised the extremely safe nature of 21st-century aviation – with the Flight Management System (FMS) an essential component. But the report warned that the dependence on automation could erode basic flying competence: “Use of automated systems has not replaced the need for basic knowledge and skills, including hand flying, instrument cross-check, system knowledge and maintaining situation awareness and aircraft state awareness”. A source close to the probe into what happened said that radar data appeared to show that AirAsia Flight QZ8501 made an “unbelievably“ steep climb before it crashed, possibly pushing it beyond the Airbus A320‘s limits. “So far, the numbers taken by the radar are unbelievably high. A Chinese frigate was also on the way, while Singapore said it was sending two underwater beacon detectors to try to detect pings from the plane’s all-important cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Simple wooden coffins — numbered 001 and 002 — with purple flowers on top contained the first two bodies, which were sent from Pangkalan Bun to Surabaya for autopsies.

Experts have suggested that the apparent concentration of the plane’s debris and the appearance of the seven recovered bodies – several of which were fully clothed – indicated it broke up on impact and not in the air. Flying in stormy conditions around 40 minutes after takeoff from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, on a quick hop to Singapore, the pilot requested permission to change course. Pandemonium broke out at Juanda International Airport, at least two distraught family members were carried out on stretchers from the room where they had been waiting for news in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city and the takeoff point for the aircraft that disappeared during a storm on Sunday. Three airline disasters involving Malaysian-affiliated carriers in less than a year have dented confidence in the country‘s aviation industry and spooked travellers. Ground controllers granted the request to veer left but denied the request to ascend to a higher altitude, which was reserved for another AirAsia aircraft.

Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues.” Meanwhile AirAsia’s Group Executive Officer, Tony Fernandes added he was “absolutely devastated” amid news he was “rushing” to Surabaya to be among the grieving families. The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, had not suffered a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002. Air Vice-Marshal Sunarbowo Sandi, the rescue mission coordinator in Palangkan Bun on the island of Borneo, said the bodies belonged to a boy who was four foot seven inches tall and wearing a blue shirt and brown pants, and a woman who was five foot three inches tall and wearing blue jeans and a dark blue shirt. “As soon as we have identified them we will hand them over to the families,” said Awi Setiyono, head of communication for Surabaya’s police force. The plane, with 155 passengers and seven crew, was less than an hour into a flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it is believed to have encountered a violent thunderstorm. Relatives had yet to break the news of his father’s presumed death to Galih, the pilot’s eight-year-old son, Mr Sutiono said. “He thinks daddy is still at work,” he said. “We are protecting him from the news.” As 2014 entered its final hours, dozens of relatives made their way to a newly set up “Disaster Victims Identification” centre where they gave blood samples and waited for news.

I surrender all,” they repeated. “I surrender all to God our savior.” Many family members had planned to travel to Pangkalan Bun, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the area where bodies were first spotted, to start identifying their loved ones. Adrian’s grandfather, John Gonimasala, 70, a retired general goods trader from the Moluccan islands, held open his palms. “Disasters are God’s will,” he said. “I know they’re gone.” Like most of the passengers, the Gonimasalas were members of Indonesia’s emerging middle class, en route to Singapore for post-Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. However, the manager of the Surabaya airport, Trikora Hardjo, later said the trip was canceled after authorities suggested their presence could slow down the operation.

Many were among the first generation in their family who could afford such a luxury, avatars of a demographic shift that has produced an airline boom in Indonesia. With a population of 250 million people, Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for commercial jets, with more than 600 planes on order. It was 13-year-old Adrian Fernando’s first trip to the city-state on what was supposed to be a fun vacation with his aunt, uncle and cousin before school resumed. “He is my only son,” said his emotional mother, Linca Gonimasela, who could not accompany him because she had to work. “At first, he didn’t want to go.

It has a reputation for weak airline safety practices, a shortage of experienced pilots, lots of mountains that get in the way of low-flying planes, and rapidly rising air travel as the economy booms. But later on, he was persuaded to join them for the New Year’s holiday.” A number of Indonesian cities have opted to cancel or tone down New Year’s Eve celebrations.

That ban used to include the Indonesian subsidiary of AirAsia, but the European Union has cleared Garuda, Indonesia AirAsia and a few other carriers over the last several years as they have worked to improve safety. Because Indonesia bars airlines with majority foreign ownership from operating domestic routes, AirAsia entered the market by acquiring a stake in a small Indonesian carrier, Awair, then changed the name, replaced senior management and bankrolled rapid expansion. Peter Marosszeky, a senior aviation research fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, said that it was too early to conclude that the AirAsia crash was the result of a mistake by either the Indonesian authorities or the Indonesian pilot of the lost plane. With an economy that has been steadily growing nearly 6 percent a year, Indonesia is investing heavily to improve and expand its airports and provide them with the latest equipment. Pilot shortages are especially acute in developing countries, as affluent carriers in industrialized countries tend to hire away the most experienced, best trained pilots around the world.

But growing reliance on unmanned drones has reduced the pipeline of military pilots just as the Asian air market has taken off, with its many long-haul routes requiring large numbers of pilots. The Indonesian agency responsible for regulating airlines, a division of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, “is understaffed, not terribly well run and under-resourced,” said Roger Mulberge, a former commercial pilot and aviation safety consultant based in Bangkok. “They’re doing their best, but they’re trying to make bricks without straw.” “The most hurtful is the uncertainty,” said the Rev.

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