AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed into the Java Sea with 162 people on board, halfway into a Dec. 28 flight from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore, and many questions remain unanswered.
WHAT CAUSED THE PLANE TO GO DOWN?
The pilot told air traffic control he was approaching threatening clouds and asked to climb above them, from 9,750m to 11,580m. However, with six other planes in the same airspace, permission was denied. When the tower tried to make contact four minutes later, there was no response, and the Airbus A320 was gone from the radar.
WHERE ARE THE BLACK BOXES?
With high surf preventing the deployment of ships that drag “ping” locators, no signals have been detected from the aircraft’s all-important cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Both would provide essential information, including the plane’s vertical and horizontal speeds along with engine temperature and final conversations between the captain and co-pilot.
WHERE ARE THE BODIES AND DEBRIS?
A massive international search effort involving planes, ships and helicopters continues, despite heavy rain, high waves and strong currents. So far, only about three dozen bodies have been recovered, some still strapped into their seats. Sonar has identified what is believed to be five large parts of the plane on the seabed, but rough conditions along with mud and silt have kept divers from getting a clear visual on it.
WAS THE PLANE AUTHORIZED TO FLY?
Indonesia has launched an investigation into AirAsia’s operating practices after alleging the low-cost carrier did not have permits to fly from Surabaya to Singapore on Sundays, the day the plane crashed. All of the carrier’s flights on that route have since been canceled. The Indonesian Ministry of Transportation has also suspended officials who allowed the plane to fly without authorization, including the Surabaya airport’s operator and officials in the control tower.