Jakarta – Dozens of planes and ships
searching Indonesian waters for a missing
AirAsia plane focused on Monday on a patch
of oil for possible clues, as a senior official
warned the aircraft was likely at the bottom
of the sea.
Australia, Malaysia and Singapore joined the
Indonesia-led search as anguished relatives
awaited news of their loved ones more than
a day after Flight QZ8501 disappeared over
the Java Sea with 162 people on board.
“Papa come home, I still need Papa,” Angela,
the daughter of the Indonesian pilot Irianto,
begged in an emotional appeal on local
The Airbus A320-200 lost contact en route
from Surabaya in Indonesia’s east Java to
Singapore on Sunday after the crew
requested a change of flight plan due to
stormy weather, in the third crisis for a
Malaysian carrier this year.
Indonesian Air Force spokesperson Hadi
Tjahjanto told AFP the search was now
concentrated on an oil patch spotted off
Belitung Island, across from Kalimantan on
“We are making sure whether it was avtur
[aviation fuel] from the AirAsia plane or from
a vessel because that location is a shipping
line,” he said.
As the second day’s search ended at dusk,
National Search and Rescue Agency chief
Bambang Soelistyo said an Indonesian
corvette was on its way to collect an oil
sample, with an announcement expected on
Soelistyo earlier said it was likely the plane
was at the “bottom of the sea”.
The hypothesis is “based on the co-
ordinates given to us and evaluation that
the estimated crash position is in the sea”,
he told journalists.
Ships and aircraft were searching an area
where the sea is 40-50m deep, he said,
adding that Indonesia was co-ordinating
with other countries to borrow any
equipment needed to scour the seabed.
Distraught relatives in Surabaya were
desperately hoping for news of loved ones
as the international search expanded.
Intan, 28, said Indonesia needed overseas
help to find the plane which was carrying
her brother and his family and friends.
“My hope is Indonesia seeks as much help
as possible from other countries. Don’t
claim ‘We have sophisticated technology’,
just ask other countries because they are
better equipped,” she told AFP, as Jakarta
welcomed offers of help from its neighbours.
“My prayer is I really, really hope that there
will be news about the people on board.
Whatever it is, what is important is we know
where they are now,” she said.
While the international operation has drawn
comparisons with the ongoing search for
Malaysia Airlines MH370, Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbot said it did not appear
to be a great mystery.
“It doesn’t appear that there’s any
particular mystery here,” Abbott told Sydney
radio station 2GB.
“It’s an aircraft that was flying a regular
route on a regular schedule, it struck what
appears to have been horrific weather, and
it’s down. But this is not a mystery like the
MH370 disappearance and it’s not an
atrocity like the MH17 shooting down.”
China, which had 152 citizens on MH370,
said in a statement Monday that it would
send a navy frigate and a military jet to join
in the search.
The frigate, on a routine patrol in the South
China Sea, was en route to the area where
the plane went missing, and the air force
was coordinating with countries on the flight
route, the statement from the defence
One Indonesian family of 10 had a
miraculous escape when they arrived too
late to catch Flight QZ8501.
“Maybe it is all God’s plan that my family
and I were not on the flight. It was a
blessing in disguise,” said Christianawati,
AirAsia said 155 of those on board were
Indonesian, with three South Koreans and
one person each from Singapore, Malaysia,
Britain and France. The Frenchman was the
Air traffic controllers lost contact with the
twin-engine aircraft around an hour after it
left Surabaya’s Juanda international airport
at about 05:35 on Sunday (22:35 GMT on
Shortly before the plane disappeared, the
pilot asked to ascend to avoid heavy clouds
but his request was turned down due to
another flight above him.
The missing plane was operated by AirAsia
Indonesia, a unit of Malaysian-based AirAsia
which dominates Southeast Asia’s booming
low-cost airline market.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago with poor
roads and railways, has seen explosive
growth in low-cost air travel over recent
But the air industry has been blighted by low
safety standards in an area that also
experiences extreme weather.
AirAsia, which has never suffered a fatal
accident, said the missing jet last underwent
maintenance on 16 November.
Its shares slumped 12% at the open but
recovered slightly to close 8.5% lower in
The plane’s disappearance comes at the end
of a disastrous year for Malaysian aviation.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared
while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in
March with 239 passengers and crew, and in
July flight MH17 was shot down over
troubled Ukraine killin
Jakarta – Dozens of planes and ships