JAKARTA (AFP) – As search teams hunt for the black boxes of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, analysts say the pilot may have managed to make an emergency water landing, only for the plane to be overcome by high seas.
The Airbus A320-200 left the Indonesian city of Surabaya early Sunday and disappeared from radar over the Java Sea during a storm, but it failed to send the transmissions normally emitted when a plane crashes or is submerged.
Experts say this suggests the experienced former air force pilot, Captain Iriyanto, conducted an emergency water landing which did not have a destructive impact.
“The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) would work on impact, be that land, sea or the sides of a mountain, and my analysis is it didn’t work because there was no major impact during landing,” said Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa.
“The pilot managed to land it on the sea’s surface,” he added.
The plane, carrying 162 people to Singapore, was cruising at a height of 32,000 feet when the pilot requested a change of course to avoid storms.
Although permission was granted to turn left, the pilot was not immediately allowed to ascend owing to heavy air traffic, and the plane disappeared from radar soon afterwards.
Some analysts have suggested the plane stalled because it was travelling too slowly or climbed too steeply. It is unclear why there was no mayday distress signal from the cockpit.
“The conclusions I have come to so far are that the plane did not blow up mid-air, and it did not suffer an impact when it hit a surface, because if it did so then the bodies would not be intact,” Chappy Hakim, a former air force commander, told AFP.