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AirAsia QZ8501: Australians join in search for missing plane


Family members of AirAsia QZ8501 passengers wait for news at Djuanda Airport yesterday

Family members of AirAsia QZ8501 passengers wait for news at Djuanda Airport yesterday

Getty Images

Family members of AirAsia QZ8501 passengers wait for news at Djuanda Airport yesterday

Rescuers searched the Java Sea yesterday for the wreckage of the AirAsia plane carrying 162 people that disappeared during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore on Sunday.

Indonesia's search and rescue agency said the plane had most likely sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Flight QZ8501 did not issue a distress signal and disappeared five minutes after the pilot requested a change of course to avoid a storm, officials said.

An Indonesian Air Force spokesman, Hadi Thahjanto, said two C-130 Hercules planes were focusing their search efforts in areas northeast of Indonesia's Bangka island, which lies roughly halfway between Surabaya and Singapore, in the Java Sea.

Singapore said it had sent two naval vessels to help look for the Airbus A320-200 operated by AirAsia, adding that a Singapore C-130 took part in the search on Sunday.

Malaysia would send three naval vessels and a C-130 to assist. An Australian P3 Orion surveillance plane left Darwin to join the search, ABC radio said.

Some experts have speculated that the Airbus was flying too slowly for its altitude, but without data from the black box flight recorders there can be no certainty.

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A statement from AirAsia in Surabaya said: "We have been keeping the families updated on the search and rescue efforts as well as providing emotional support. Another group of AirAsia officials are providing the same to the families based in Singapore."

AirAsia's chief executive, Tony Fernandes, told reporters: "Any airline CEO who says he can guarantee that his airline is 100% safe is not accurate."

The airline had "carried 220 million people up to this point", he said.

"Of course, there's going to be some reaction, but we are confident in our ability to fly people."

Calls grew yesterday in the aviation industry for real time tracking of flights, a step that could saves lives, analysts say, and would also make the recovery effort much quicker.

Indonesia's vice-president said there was "insufficient evidence" that objects spotted in the sea were from the missing plane.

A British national, named as Chi Man Choi was among those on board the plane. He is thought to have been travelling with his young daughter, Zoe.