Revelations that AirAsia Flight QZ8501 climbed too fast before stalling and plunging into the sea point to “striking” similarities between the Java Sea accident and the 2009 crash of an Air France jet, analysts said yesterday.
Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said the Airbus A320-200 was ascending at a rate of 1,800m a minute before stalling, as it flew in stormy weather last month from Indonesia’s Surabaya to Singapore.
“In the final minutes, the plane climbed at a speed which was beyond normal,” Jonan told reporters on Tuesday.
That ascent is about two to three times the normal climb rate for a commercial jet, according to experts.
Indonesian divers recovered the plane’s black boxes a week ago, after an arduous search for the jet that crashed on Dec. 28 last year with 162 people on board. The cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder are now being analyzed, with a preliminary report due next week.
While they stressed the difficulty of drawing conclusions without seeing the full black box data, analysts said the accident had strong echoes of the crash of Air France Flight AF447 into the Atlantic in 2009, with the loss of 228 lives.
“The similarities are pretty striking,” said Daniel Tsang, founder of Hong Kong-based consultancy Aspire Aviation.
In that case, the Airbus A330 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris vanished at night during a storm.
The aircraft’s speed sensors were found to have malfunctioned and the plane climbed too steeply, causing it to stall. As with the AirAsia disaster, the accident happened in what is known as the “intertropical convergence zone,” an area around the equator where the north and south trade winds meet, and thunderstorms are common.
The investigation into AF447 found that both technical and human error were to blame. After the speed sensors froze and failed, the pilots failed to react properly, according to the French aviation authority, who said they lacked proper training.
Jonan on Tuesday likened the doomed plane’s ascent to a fighter jet, although experts noted that warplanes can climb considerably faster.
However, Tom Ballantyne, Sydney-based chief correspondent for Orient Aviation magazine, said the rate of climb of the AirAsia jet was “just phenomenal,” adding: “I’m not sure I’ve heard of anything that dramatic before.”
He said it would be unusual for weather alone to cause such a rapid ascent, but added it was possible if the jet hit “some bizarre unprecedented storm cell.”
“It is possible that the aircraft could have got caught in some sort of updraft that lifted it thousands of feet,” he said.
However, while saying the rapid ascent showed that there was “something very wrong,” Gerry Soejatman, a Jakarta-based independent aviation analyst, added it was too early to have a firm read on the cause of the crash.
“Although there are similarities with Air France, and the weather seems to be a factor, we can’t make any conclusions that this is caused by the weather or icing — it’s too early,” Soejatman said.
Nevertheless, Tsang said the probe was unfolding as analysts had predicted, with no explosions or loud bangs registered on the cockpit voice recorder, and therefore no indication terrorism played a role.
The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee, which is probing the crash, this week said they are now focusing on human or aircraft error as probable causes, after analyzing the data from the cockpit recorder.
A huge international hunt for the crashed plane, involving ships from several nations, including the US and China, finally located the wreckage at relatively shallow depth in the Java Sea.
Indonesian search and rescue teams have so far recovered just 53 bodies.
All but seven of those on board the flight were Indonesian. The foreign nationals were from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Britain and France.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting