28 Dec 2014

What happened to missing AirAsia flight QZ8501?

Search and rescue crews looking for the 162 people – including a Briton – on board missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 suspend air operations overnight.

The Airbus A320-200 lost contact with air traffic control at 7.24am local time (12.24am GMT), having taken off from Surabaya in Indonesia bound for Singapore almost two hours earlier.

The airline said 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, and seven crew, including two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer, were on the flight.

The pilot had asked to divert the flight due to safety fears amid stormy conditions, moments before it lost contact with air traffic control.

A British national is on board the missing flight and next of kin have been informed, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said. Channel 4 News understands he has been named as Chi Man Choi.

AirAsia’s chief executive Tony Fernandes, who also owns Premier League football team Queens Park Rangers, has flown to Indonesia to help with the search.

He said: “We are very devastated about what’s happened, it’s unbelievable, but we do not know what’s happened yet, so we’ll wait for the accident investigation to really find out what’s happened.

“Our concern right now is for the relatives and for the next of kin, there is nothing more important to us for our crew’s family, and for our passengers’ families, that we look after them.”

Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501, an Airbus 320-200, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 6.17am (11.17pm BST), officials said.

“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to en route weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said in a statement.

No distress signal had been sent, said Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at Indonesia’s transport ministry.

It is the third incident involving Malaysia this year – in March, Flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people and in July Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on it.

AirAsia said in a statement on its Facebook page: “At this time, search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). AirAsia Indonesia is co-operating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way.

“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost while it was still under the control of the Indonesian Air Traffic Control (ATC).”

The airline said family or friends of those who may have been on the aircraft can phone their emergency call centre on 00 622129850801.

Sunu Widyatmoko, chief executive of AirAsia Indonesia, said: “We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident.

“In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments.

“We will do everything possible to support them as the investigation continues and have already mobilized a support team to help take care of their immediate needs.”

Indonesia AirAsia is 49 per cent owned by Malaysia-based budget carrier AirAsia, with local investors holding the rest.

The AirAsia group, including affiliates in Thailand, the Philippines and India, has not had a crash since its Malaysian budget operations began in 2002.