Transport Ministry says AirAsia QZ8501 was not allowed to fly route, airline’s license may be revoked

By Coconuts Jakarta January 3, 2015 / 17:53 WIB

The AirAsia plane that crashed off Indonesia was flying on an unauthorised schedule, the country’s transport ministry has said, adding that it has now frozen the airline’s permission to fly the route.

After two large parts of the plane were found on the sea bed late on Friday by the international search team, the acting director general of air transport, Djoko Murdjatmodjo, said the plane’s flight time had not been cleared by officials, and the ministry would investigate all AirAsia schedules from Monday.

Flight QZ8501 crashed into the Java Sea with 162 people on board en route from Indonesia’s second city Surabaya to Singapore early on Sunday.

“It violated the route permit given, the schedule given, that’s the problem,” Murdjatmodjo told Agence France-Presse on Saturday.

The permit would be frozen until investigations were completed, he told Reuters, and it was possible AirAsia’s licence in Indonesia might be revoked.

Sunu Widyatmoko, AirAsia Indonesia’s chief, said the airline would cooperate with the inquiry.

“The government has suspended our flights from Surabaya to Singapore and back,” he said. “They are doing the evaluation process. AirAsia will cooperate fully with the evaluation.”

A statement from the ministry spokesman, J A Barata, said AirAsia was not permitted to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sundays and had not asked to change its schedule. It was unclear how the airliner was able to fly without the necessary authorisation.

The plane was operated by AirAsia Indonesia, a unit of Malaysia-based AirAsia, which previously had a solid safety record.

On Saturday, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said that two large parts of the plane had been found in the search area at a depth of around 30 metres (100ft), raising hopes that its black boxes would be recovered soon.

Bambang Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta that the international search team came across the objects off the island of Borneo late on Friday night.

“With the discovery of an oil spill and two big parts of the aircraft, I can assure you these are the parts of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for,” Soelistyo said.

He said the larger of the two objects was around 10 metres x 5 metres.

“As I speak, we are lowering an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) underwater to get an actual picture of the objects detected on the sea floor,” Soelistyo said.

He added, however, that a strong current was making it difficult to operate the ROV.

The families of victims have been preparing funerals as the bodies recovered are identified in Surabaya, where a crisis centre has been set up at a police hospital with facilities to store 150 bodies.

Before take-off, the pilot of flight QZ8501 had asked for permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid a storm, but the request was not approved because there other planes above him on the route, according to AirNav, Indonesia’s air traffic control.

In his last communication shortly before all contact was lost, he said he wanted to change course to avoid the menacing storm.

Story: Agence France-Presse

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