This morning, yet another Malaysia-based commercial airliner went missing. AirAsia flight QZ8501 disappeared from radar screens at 06:24 or 07:24 local time (reports differ, and information still seems sketchy) this morning over the Java Sea during its flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. The plane was an Airbus A320-200 with 162 people aboard. AirAsia is a popular low-cost airline based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and serves 100 cities in 22 countries.
There was reported thunderstorm activity in the area early this morning, and the pilot had requested to deviate from the flight path to ascend to a higher altitude to get above the weather. However, according to reports, that request couldn’t be approved due to another flight passing at a higher altitude, and within minutes contact with QZ8501 was lost. It was expected that the plane would be found today because the position of the plane at its disappearance is well covered by radar.
Now the first day has come and gone with no sign of the aircraft. Is this all starting to sound a little too familiar? It is to me. According to AirAsia’s chief executive, Tony Fernandez, the captain had more than 20,500 hours experience, and almost 7,000 of those hours were with AirAsia, so we can rule out an inexperienced pilot. Also, the plane’s location was known when it disappeared from radar, with ships and aircraft being dispatched to the exact area within a short time to search for any wreckage. Oh, and no distress call from the aircraft; not a Mayday call or any indication there was trouble aboard.
It goes without saying that 2014 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Malaysia. First there was Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared without a trace. No one knows where that plane or its wreckage is. Then there was Flight MH17, also a Malaysia Airlines plane which, to be fair, we know what happened with that flight – it was shot down over Ukraine, and the wreckage was found. Now this one, and it’s interesting to note the excellent safety record of AirAsia – they’ve never lost a plane.
The search is set to resume tomorrow morning at 06:00 local time. I, for one, will be keeping up with what’s going on in the Java Sea, because these days, when Malaysia and airliners are mentioned in the same sentence, it’s impossible not to pay attention.