05 Jan Weather may have triggered AirAsia crash, say Indonesian officials

Written by AFP Published in Regional Read 2280 times
Indonesian air force members and rescuers from the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a passenger seat during a search and rescue operation for the victims of an AirAsia plane crash, at Iskandar Military Airport in Pangkalan Bun, Central Borneo, Indonesia, January 5, 2015. Photo: Adi Weda/EPA
Indonesian air force members and rescuers from the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a passenger seat during a search and rescue operation for the victims of an AirAsia plane crash, at Iskandar Military Airport in Pangkalan Bun, Central Borneo, Indonesia, January 5, 2015. Photo: Adi Weda/EPA

Weather was the "triggering factor" in the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 with icing likely causing engine damage, Indonesian officials said, as rough seas Sunday hampered the search for more bodies and wreckage.

The Airbus A320-200 crashed into the Java Sea on December 28 carrying 162 people from Indonesia's second city Surabaya to Singapore. Searchers are hunting for the "black box" flight data recorders to determine the cause of the crash.

An initial report on the website of Indonesia's meteorological agency BMKG suggested the weather at the time the plane went down sparked the disaster after it appeared to fly into storm clouds.

"Based on the available data received on the location of the aircraft's last contact, the weather was the triggering factor behind the accident," said the report, which referred to infra-red satellite pictures showing peak cloud temperatures of minus 80 to minus 85 degrees Celsius at the time.

"The most probable weather phenomenon was icing which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process. This is just one of the possibilities that occurred based on the analysis of existing meteorological data," the report said.

It remained unclear why other planes on similar routes were unaffected by the weather, and other analysts said there was not yet enough information to explain the disaster.

Meanwhile, AirAsia played down an incident on Sunday that saw one of its planes turned back before takeoff in Indonesia.

Indonesia AirAsia flight 7633 was taxiing in preparation for takeoff Saturday at Surabaya airport - where last week's doomed flight also took off - when a power unit used to start the plane shut down, an airline official said.

As a result, the pilot turned back to the gate, Mr Raden Achmad Sadikin, director of Safety and Security at Indonesia AirAsia, told reporters.

Local media in Indonesia and Malaysia had reported the Bandung-bound plane's engine had cut out after emitting a loud bang that terrified passengers, but AirAsia stressed it was a minor incident.

"It's not that the engine failed. The plane wanted to take off but the APU (auxiliary power unit), which is the equipment that helped to start the engine, suddenly shut down," Mr Sadikin said.

The plane later landed safely at its destination in West Java after undergoing a check, Indonesia AirAsia chief executive Mr Sunu Widyatmoko was quoted by local media as saying.

AirAsia boss Mr Tony Fernandes lashed out at the initial media reports, calling the headlines "sensational" and "silly".

"Silly headlines in Malaysia. AirAsia Indonesia aircraft did not have a stalled engine. An APU which is ground power had to be restarted," he said.

© AFP

Last modified on Monday, 05 January 2015 16:42