The Slatest

Indonesian Official Says AirAsia Plane Is Likely “at the Bottom of the Sea”

An official from Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency in Medan, North Sumatra points at his computer screen to the position where AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing off the waters of Indonesia  

Photo by SUTANTA ADITYA/AFP/Getty Images

Officials are seeing little need to mince words about the fate of AirAsia Flight 8501, making it clear there is almost no hope of finding anything but debris of the jet carrying 162 people. “Based on the coordinates that we know, the evaluation would be that any estimated crash position is in the sea, and that the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea,” Indonesia search and rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said at a news conference in Jakarta, reports the BBC.

Soelistyo also warned that “the capability of our equipment is not optimum” to carry out an underwater search and made it clear the country would be asking for international assistance. The United States, the United Kingdom and France have all offered to help with the needed technology, notes Reuters.

An Indonesian helicopter detected two oil spots in the water on Monday while an Australian plane “spotted objects” on the Java Sea but it wasn’t clear whether any of those things were connected with the AirAsia plane that vanished from the radar Sunday morning while it was flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore with 162 people on board, reports the Associated Press.

As search-and-rescue operations continued, officials said there had been no signals from the plane’s emergency locator transmitters and the search area was widened “from around Bangka island south of Singapore to include waters farther north, in addition to a part of the island of Borneo,” details the Wall Street Journal. The lack of signal from the emergency locator could be another reason to believe that the plane is underwater.

The Airbus A320-200 vanished from the radar after the highly experienced pilot failed to get permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid bad weather. That is why, at least preliminarily, everyone seems focused on examining if the bad weather could have played a role in the crash. The hypothesis, however, still leaves lots of open questions. Even though the weather was bad, “ the monsoon conditions did not seem insurmountable for a modern airliner,” notes the New York Times. The Washington Post also talked to experts who wonder how it’s possible the pilot wasn’t able to avoid the bad weather earlier and point out that figuring out the speed of the plane will be key to any investigation. Preliminary data seems to suggest the plane was flying at a low speed, which could cause the aircraft to stall.

Family members of passengers from missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 gather at the airport in Surabaya, East Java, on Dec. 29.

Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images