KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 28 – A massive search is underway for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 which lost contact with the Jakarta air traffic control tower at 5.17am Malaysian time. Indonesian authorities have mobilised search and rescue operation near Belitung Island. It has deployed five ships and a surveillance aircraft carrying 15 Indonesian Air Force personnel.
The Airbus 320-200 was carrying 162 people of whom 155 were passengers. It was travelling from Surabaya to Singapore. Meanwhile, according to dailytelegraph.com.au, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian government is urgently seeking to get more details about the AirAsia flight that has vanished.
Bishop said her office was trying to confirm whether there were any Australians on board. There are emerging reports the plane may have been trying to avoid bad weather at the time it disappeared. A leaked, and yet unconfirmed air traffic control sheet, shared by pilots on Airlines.Net, showed the A320 continuing to climb through 36,000 feet, but only registering a speed of 353 knots.
“Gives me that feeling of another AF447 … or something similar at least,’’ one pilot suggested, referring to the ill-fated Air France flight that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, killing 228 passengers. The pilot Captain Iriyanto had 6100 flying hours under his belt, while his first officer had accrued 2275 flying hours.
Hauntingly, one of the flight attendants believed missing aboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 posted a number of tweets about doomed Malaysia Airlines MH370 and MH17 earlier this year. Oscar Desano is listed as a flight attendant on board the AirAsia flight which lost contact with air control between Indonesia and Singapore on Sunday.
In a post to his Twitter account on Christmas eve, he wrote: “Merry Christmas to all my beautiful friends who celebrate it” He wrote on July 17, following the downing of MH17 by a ground-to-air missile: “I feel truly sorry for the loss of MH17 by Malaysia Airlines. It’s been 2 big catastrophic event for MAS in 1 year…
“My deep condolences also for the (passengers’) family, may all the casualties rest in peace… “Hope everything will be OK also for the internal company of Malaysia Airlines… Amiiinnn…” “Pray for Malaysia Airlines flight number MH370 Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing, who have lost contact…,” he wrote on March 8.
The first officer aboard missing flight QZ8501 is believed to be decorated French pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel. The AirAsia employee, based in Paris, was last year included on the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Airmen Certification Database, according to the Aviation Business Gazette.