29 December 2014
Last updated at 23:29
The search for the missing airliner is being expanded
The pilot of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 asked to take the plane higher in his last request to air traffic control, Indonesian officials say.
He was given clearance two to three minutes later but made no reply.
The Airbus A320-200, which was carrying 162 people, disappeared on Sunday shortly after leaving Surabaya in eastern Java on its way to Singapore.
Meanwhile, the US says Indonesia has asked for its help in the search, which is resuming as day breaks.
The US state department said it was considering the request but refused to say what kind of assistance Indonesia had asked for.
‘Then no reply’
On Monday night, state navigation operator AirNav Indonesia revealed the last communication the pilot of flight QZ8501 had had with air traffic control officials at Surabaya airport.
The plane had left Surabaya in eastern Java at 05:35 on Sunday (22:35 GMT Saturday) and had been due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30.
Wisnu Darjono, AirNav safety director, said Captain Iriyanto, 53, requested permission to turn left at 06:12 to avoid a storm. The request was immediately granted and the plane changed course.
According to AirNav, the pilot then asked to take the plane from 32,000ft (9,800m) to 38,000ft but did not explain why he wanted to do so.
After speaking to their counterparts in Singapore, Indonesian air traffic control staff told the pilot he could take the plane to 34,000ft but no higher because another AirAsia airliner was flying at 38,000ft.
“It took us around two to three minutes to communicate with Singapore,” Mr Darjono said. “But when we informed the pilot of the approval at 06:14, we received no reply.”
The plane was officially declared missing at 07:55.
It is unclear what happened next but one report suggests the plane may have tried to climb through the storm.
At the scene: Clive Myrie, BBC News, Surabya
Indonesian officials are wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
President Joko Widodo shot down suggestions that debris and oil from the fuel tanks may have been discovered by saying: “We have to tell it like it is… So far our efforts haven’t found clarity about the plane’s position.”
While some relatives will keep the fire of hope burning, there is the developing, devastating realisation for others that their loved ones won’t be found alive.
It is an agony that people here are beginning to get used to as time drags on and optimism and hope ebb away.
It was the same feeling 10 years ago, when so many lost family and friends to the waters of the Indian Ocean after the Boxing Day tsunami.
Commemorative services were held here just a few days ago to mark the anniversary.
Former pilots say such a move could lead to reduced stability and possibly a fatal stall, as cross winds and down draughts batter the plane.
Captain Iriyanto had more than 20,500 flight hours, almost 7,000 of them with AirAsia. The co-pilot was French national Remi Emmanuel Plesel.
Dozens of planes and ships are due to search an area far beyond the AirAsia airliner’s original flight path on Tuesday.
Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency, said he suspected the aircraft had crashed into the sea but so far no evidence has been produced.
Dozens of planes and ships are now patrolling an area expanded far beyond the airliner’s original flight path
Family and friends of those on board the plane are gathered and awaiting news at Surabaya airport
The Indonesian air force said the search was seeking to establish whether an oil patch spotted off Belitung island was aviation fuel or fuel from a ship.
Australia, Malaysia and Singapore have joined the Indonesia-led search.
Intan, a 28-year-old whose brother was on flight QZ8501, said she hoped Indonesia would appeal for help to find the plane.
“Don’t claim we have sophisticated technology, just ask other countries because they are better equipped,” she told AFP news agency.
The AirAsia plane was delivered in 2008, has flown 13,600 times, completing 23,000 hours, and underwent its last maintenance in November.
AirAsia previously had no fatal accidents involving its aircraft. On board were 155 passengers, the company said in a statement:
- There were 137 adults, 17 children and one infant
- Most were Indonesian but also one UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans
- The BBC understands that the British national is Chi-Man Choi
- Two pilots and five crew were also on board
Are you, or is someone you know, affected by this story? Do you know any of the passengers on the AirAsia flight? You can email [email protected] with any information. Please leave a telephone number if you are willing to be contacted by a BBC journalist.
Or comment here:
Have your say