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Conflicting statements and corrections continue to complicate QZ8501 reporting

written by John Walton | January 3, 2015

Rough seas and winds approaching gale force continued to slow recovery operations for Indonesia AirAsia flight 8501 on Friday and into Saturday, though further bodies have been retrieved and débris resembling the aircraft’s tailplane reportedly has been detected by sonar.

Officials have been consistent in statements that 30 bodies have now been retrieved from the recovery area, with funerals for victims continuing to take place. In a Twitter exchange with Australian Aviation, Malaysian Navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar described the prospects for diving on the seabed wreckage located so far as “very challenging,” noting that any diving operation “has to be done with extreme caution” in the conditions.

Admiral Abdul Aziz – one of the very few officials making public statements in English – reported visibility of 8 nautical miles (15km) and waves of approximately 4m, corresponding to rough seas on the Douglas sea scale. Winds were reportedly between 20 and 30 knots (37-56 km/h), corresponding to 5-7 on the Beaufort wind force scale.

Conflicting statements and corrections continue to make precision in reporting complex:  Colonel Yayan Sofiyan, commander of the corvette KRI Bung Tomo, was confident that his vessel had located the tail when speaking with local media, yet Air Marshal Bambang Soelistyo, chief of the SAR agency BASARNAS, later emphasised that the object’s makeup had yet to be confirmed.

QZ8501 naval search area on Saturday
The naval search area on Saturday extended east along the Kalimantan coast on the island of Borneo. Image – Admiral Abdul Aziz Jaafar

The maritime search areas have again moved and been re-numbered, extending on Saturday towards the east. 

An underwater search area has also been identified identified, stretching 57nm by 10nm (106km by 19 km) to the west-northwest of the centre of the  Most Probable Area, in which the significant wreckage previously identified is located.

Notably, some of the bodies discovered Friday were strapped into their seats. If replicated significantly throughout the sections of aircraft fuselage that have yet to be retrieved, it may well lend credence to the theory that the aircraft – or large sections of it – struck the water relatively intact. 

While débris is already being analysed by investigators, the crucial cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have not been recovered.

Indonesian government suspends route authority after technical violation

It has also emerged that Indonesia AirAsia did not have the specific route authority to operate between Surabaya and Singapore on Sundays, the day on which QZ8501 disappeared. The airline did have authority for flights on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, via an authorisation granted in October 2014, according to a statement by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation (in Bahasa Indonesia and translated by the Singapore Straits Times).

Online schedules suggest that the airline had been running daily flights on the route, and had planned to continue doing so except for a five-weekly service between February 2 and 24.

Approval to revise the schedule had not been sought, said the statement issued by spokesperson J A Barata. Indonesia AirAsia’s authority to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route has accordingly been suspended by the Ministry of Transportation as of 2 January.

Unconfirmed leaked radar information raises more questions than it answers

Respected local journalist Gerry Soejatman has been the focus of leaks, including what appears to be a mobile phone picture of radar data, airspeed and ascent/descent information. The information – which has yet to be confirmed – is baffling the industry, with climb and sink rates well outside the envelope.

Australian Aviation will continue to monitor this information and attempt to have it independently confirmed.


  • Pete Avroc


    Gerry Sojatman may be a “respected local journalist” but the data he reported about climb and descent rates would only be available from the flight recorders, which, obviously have not been found. Egocentrism and manufactured stories have no place in the news media and certainly not in cases where lives have been lost and while next of kin live-out fragile minutes of hope and fear.

  • The climb and descent rate information could have come from any of the numerous civilian and military radar stations covering the area. Gerry is fortunate to have what seem to be a relatively good source or two inside the radar establishments. This doesn’t smack of egocentrism or manufactured story to me at all — though, as it’s not yet possible to confirm, I did report it very briefly in this piece.

  • George Young


    Could wind shears be responsible for extreme altitude changes?

    This site is a great source of QZ8501 news as it breaks. Thank you.

    Due to the nature of the sources, I fully understand that ultimately some of facts may not prove out.

  • Benjamin abura


    We should not report wrong information on this matter because this is a situation where lives have been lost and all the world outside there is waiting for the right information from you journalists and the media at large.condolences to those who have lost their dear ones.may their souls rest in eternal peace.benjamin from kamapala uganda

  • William


    Similar to the MH370 disappearance, the 24 hour news cycle requires new facts on a regular basis to keep the public informed of what’s happening. As with some media agencies (not AA), they generate “facts” provided by “experts” to the news coming, regardless of how inaccurate said facts may be.

    The worst part is, speculation doesn’t help the victims families and can sometimes makes grieving harder because they no longer know what to believe.

    True closure can only come once the investigation is complete, which again, certain media outlets fail to appreciate the time it takes and continue to spin facts.

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