KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 ― Missing Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was possibly travelling too slow to maintain altitude in adverse weather conditions when it went missing, an Australian aviation experts has suggested
Geoffrey Thomas, the editor of airlineratings.com, believes the flight QZ8501 pilot may have tried to fly over storm clouds the flight encountered but lost too much momentum and induced an aerodynamic stall similar to what happened in the Air France AF447 crash in 2009.
Flight AF447, en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after ice blocked off the pitot tubes needed for the aircraft to detect its airspeed and prevented the pilots from knowing their true velocity.
“The QZ8501 was flying too slow, about 100 knots [or] about 160km/h too slow. At that altitude that’s exceedingly dangerous,” Thomas was quoted as saying by Australia’s Herald Sun.
“If the radar return is correct, he appears to be going too slow for the altitude he is flying at.”
Calling the A320 a sophisticated aircraft, Thomas said the slow speed could be due to extreme weather conditions and believed the plane could have been caught in a massive updraft or something similar.
But he also added that the A320 was not equipped with the latest radar technology that could have prevented the pilots from flying into severe thunderstorms.
The Herald Sun also quoted Strategic Aviation Solutions chairman Neil Hansford as saying it was not likely that the plane went down due to mechanical issues or engineering problems.
He said this was considering the age of the aircraft, at 6.3 years old, and the stricter conditions imposed by Indonesia’s aviation regulator in recent years, including higher training standards for Indonesian pilots.
While he did not rule out engine failure, Hansford said the plane would still be able to fly after losing one engine.
He also ruled out possible hijacking theories and pointed out that it disappeared under very different circumstances to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 as the Airbus does not have the range to go very far for a major detour.
Hansford questioned, however, the theory that QZ8501 went down in bad weather, saying what the flight encountered was not out of the ordinary.
“It is the storm season but pilots fly in those sort of conditions all of the time,”Hansford reportedly said.
This was contradicted by the safety editor of Flight Global, David Learmount, who said the weather conditions could be the key to the disappearance of the plane.
He reportedly told UK daily The Guardian that storms can be powerful enough to rip a medium-sized aeroplane apart and that is why pilots will ask to divert around a massive storm.
Another aviation expert and former air traffic controller, Doug MacLean, supported Learmount’s theory by stating that very large planes can be shifted up to 4,000ft by turbulence and that a thunderstorm usually extends far above a cloud.
“Pilots are very wary of flying above the top of a storm because the air could be very violent.” he told The Guardian.
Flight QZ8501, which carried one Malaysian on board, vanished from Jakarta’s radar at 6.18am local time yesterday amid stormy weather enroute to Singapore from Surabaya in Indonesia.
On board Flight QZ8501 were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, one Frenchman and one Briton, comprising 155 passengers and seven crew members.
Indonesia resumed search operations for the missing jet early this morning, whose last known position was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island.