A Sunday morning flight from Surabaya to Singapore has gone missing, with 162 on board. According to the airline’s official statement, AWQ8501 (a.k.a. QZ8501) departed Juanda International Airport at 2235Z (5:35AM local time), and lost contact with air traffic control nearly one hour later, at just after 2324Z. The regularly scheduled passenger flight is 745 nautical miles direct. The route filed included RAMPY-M635-SURGA, and was planned at two hours and ten minutes flying time. Weather is believed to be a likely factor, as the pilot had reportedly requested weather diversions and a climb related to monsoonal storm activity.
One early report, since declared erroneous by Indonesian authorities, placed a search in Java Sea waters, just southeast of Pulau Belitung. This seems fishy because, although much of the route lacked radar coverage, per ATC tracking procedures there should have been a good idea of roughly where the flight was, at the time of last communications. Thus, the reported search site remains plausible, and perhaps the media has failed to get authorities to clarify they are simply modifying their search locations. Many are frustrated by this situation , as it echoes the many miscommunications following the Malaysia flight incidents, MH370 and MH17, from earlier this year.
It would be nice, in this world where we now all have access to charts, weather data, and so much information, if airline and government authorities would quickly share the hard and basic facts for this incident, including:
- the filed route of flight
- the reported positions along the amended route of flight (time & lat/long)
- the weather data (convective sigmets, satellite weather presentation, at time of departure and at time of disappearance)
- any relevant transcribed communications between the flight and ATC (voice, or datalink)
- and other known and releasable information.
Given the heightened fears of terrorism in today’s world, it is understandable that some details might be concealed for real security reasons, but much of what authorities continue to hide is clearly releasable. The key lessons we learned during the Malaysian incidents was that aviation officials, both at the airlines and with the regulatory agencies, need to evolve away from their old pro-business ‘informational control and PR spin’ habits. Let the people know the facts, and right away. That said, it is commendable that the Indonesian Ministry of Transport did make a fairly quick release of some flight data, including a Data Manifest (listing all passengers and personnel),and a Load and Trim Sheet (showing fuel, routes, etc.).
Here are portions of the World Hi Chart, in two sections, showing
the approximate direct route updated charts, with orange boxes marking filed route fixes. The red arrow marks two degrees of latitude (120 nautical miles) for scale.
- AirAsia A320 disappears en route in bad weather, but weather won’t be only area of investigative focus
- Everything we know about the weather when AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing – article by Andrew Freedman, including a discussion of ‘Intertropical Convergence Zone’
- AirAsia Flight 8501: Preliminary Meteorological Analysis – Weather Graphics website, by Tim Vasquez
- Same flight, one day earlier (FlightRadar24)