Air Asia update: Teams fail to float fuselage

Indonesian diver and an official examine the wreckage from AirAsia flight QZ8501 after it was lifted into the Crest Onyx ship at sea. An AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board had climbed at a speed that was higher than normal and then stalled, Indonesia's transport minister. (AFP)

Latest: Indonesian salvage teams failed to raise the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 from the sea bed Saturday, but recovered four more bodies from the wreckage of the crashed jet.

The bid to raise the fuselage came a day after divers were able to enter the main section of the plane, which crashed in the Java Sea last month, for the first time.

Difficult weather conditions for the past week had stopped rescuers reaching the main part of the Airbus A320-200 since it was spotted on the seabed by a military vessel earlier this month.

"We were not successful today. The sling snapped off so the main body fell back to the sea floor," S B Supriyadi, a rescue agency official, told AFP, adding several bodies fell from the fuselage when the piece of wreckage sunk once again.

The operation to lift the main body will resume Sunday.

Earlier:

Indonesian salvage teams launched an operation to raise the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 from the sea bed on Saturday as they recovered four more bodies from the wreckage of the crashed jet.

The bid came a day after divers were able to enter the main section of the jet, which crashed in the Java Sea last month, for the first time.

Difficult weather conditions for the past week had stopped rescuers reaching the main part of the Airbus A320-200 since it was spotted on the seabed by a military vessel earlier this month.

"We have begun the operation today to lift the main body and we hope we can float it today," SB Supriyadi, a rescue agency official, told AFP.

Just after dawn Saturday, divers began descending to the sea floor to tie floatation bags to the fuselage, said Rasyid Kacong, the navy official overseeing the lifting operation from onboard the Banda Aceh warship.

But the team failed to float the main body on the first attempt, as the ropes snapped off before the fuselage could be brought to the surface.

"We are now trying again and it is in the process," Kacong said.

Four bodies believed to have come from inside the fuselage were retrieved as the team tried to lift the main section, bringing the total bodies recovered to 69, officials said.

The previous day, a jumble of wires and seats floating inside the fuselage prevented the divers from entering further to find more bodies.

"The divers said it was dark inside, the seats where floating about and the wires were like a tangled yarn," Supriyadi said.

The rescuers hope that once the fuselage is lifted, it will be easier to inspect the inside of the main body and retrieve more bodies, he added.

The jet's black boxes - the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder - were recovered last week, and investigators are analysing them.

Flight QZ8501 went down on December 28 in stormy weather, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were 162 people on board.

Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said this week that the plane climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.

Just moments before the plane disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid a major storm but was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.
 

Earlier story: Jet climbed fast then stalled

An AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board climbed faster than normal and then stalled, the Indonesian transport minister said Tuesday.

Flight QZ8501 went down on December 28 in stormy weather, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has said bad weather may have caused the crash, and investigators are analysing the data from the jet's black boxes before releasing a preliminary report.

Just moments before the plane disappeared off the radar, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid the storm. He was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic.

"In the final minutes, the plane climbed at a speed which was beyond normal," Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters, citing radar data.

(AFP)

"The plane suddenly went up at a speed above the normal limit that it was able to climb to. Then it stalled."

Earlier at a parliamentary hearing, he said radar data showed the Airbus A320-200 appeared at one point to be climbing at a rate of 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) a minute before the crash. There were several other planes in the area at the time.

 "I think it is rare even for a fighter jet to be able to climb 6,000 feet per minute," he said. "For a commercial flight, climbing around 1,000 to 2,000 (feet) is maybe already considered extraordinary, because it is not meant to climb that fast."

However, defence aviation experts said the minister's statement was incorrect, adding that a fighter jet flying at an altitude of 10,000 metres is capable of climbing 10,000 feet per minute.

Terrorism ruled out

The minister's comments came after Indonesian investigators said they were focusing on the possibility of human error or problems with the plane having caused the crash, following an initial analysis of the cockpit voice recorder.

"We didn't hear any other person, no explosion," investigator Nurcahyo Utomo told reporters, explaining why terrorism had been ruled out.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Committee were now looking at the "possibility of plane damage and human factors", he said, without giving further details.

As well as the cockpit voice recorder, the committee is also examining a wealth of information in the flight data recorder, which monitors every major part of the plane. A preliminary report will be released on January 28.

There was a huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several countries including the US and China.

Indonesian search and rescue teams have so far recovered just 53 bodies from the sea.

But last week a Singapore navy ship located the jet's main body, with the AirAsia motto "Now Everyone Can Fly" painted on the side. Rescue teams hope they will be able to find many of the passengers and crew inside.

However, divers have not succeeded in reaching the fuselage despite several attempts due to bad weather, high waves and strong underwater currents.

All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian. The foreign nationals were from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and France.

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