AirAsia Didn’t Have Permission to Fly Route on Day of Crash, Indonesia Says – Wall Street Journal

Posted: Saturday, January 03, 2015

National Search And Rescue Agency personnel carry the body of a victim on board the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501, from a helicopter upon arrival at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Saturday.
ENLARGE

JAKARTA, Indonesia—


AirAsia

didn’t have permission to fly from Surabaya to Singapore on the Sunday morning that Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea, Indonesian officials said Saturday.

Shortly after Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said it had detected two large parts of the aircraft on the seabed, transport ministry spokesman

J.A. Barata

said the airline was only permitted to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from late 2014 to early 2015.

“So AirAsia has committed a violation of the route that has been given to them,” Mr. Barata told The Wall Street Journal. He said the company’s flights from Surabaya to Singapore had consequently been suspended on Friday.

Tommy Soetomo, the head of state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, said AirAsia had a slot to fly on Sundays. But Mr. Barata said that information was outdated and that AirAsia should have returned the slot to the government. Before October, AirAsia had permission to fly daily to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, he said. He didn’t say why the number of flights was cut.

Indonesia’s acting director general of aviation, Djoko Murdjatmojo, added that the Transportation Ministry is investigating why AirAsia was flying the route outside its permitted schedule, which covers the period Oct. 26 to March 28. The probe will include an internal investigation of the ministry, he said.

At a news conference in Surabaya on Saturday, AirAsia Indonesia’s chief executive Sunu Widyatmoko said the company would fully cooperate with the government investigation. He said the management of AirAsia won’t comment further until the government evaluation was complete.

Mr. Barata said the investigation will also cover other airlines.

The


Airbus

A320, which had 162 people on board, lost contact with air traffic control early Sunday morning midway between Surabaya and Singapore. Saturday, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said sonar scans had identified two objects in about 30 meters of water that represent the main part of the aircraft.

“With the oil slick that we found and the discovery of the two big objects, I can confirm that this is the big part of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for all this time,” Mr. Soelistyo said, adding that a remotely operated vehicle would be sent to take pictures of the objects, though rough weather is hampering the deployment.

Some bodies have been recovered from the Java Sea and a handful of burials and memorial services have taken place, but the majority of passengers and crew are still unaccounted for as rough weather has slowed the search and recovery process.

Budi Sampurna, a professor at the University of Indonesia and member of the forensic team responsible for identifying bodies from the crash, said one autopsy had already taken place, but he didn’t comment on the cause of death. He also didn’t say how many other autopsies were planned.

Mr. Soelistyo said Friday evening that a total of 30 bodies had been recovered. Earlier Friday, searchers brought the bodies of 10 victims to shore. Following a ceremonial military send-off, they were flown to Surabaya.

The bodies were placed in white coffins with a bouquet of flowers on top. Each coffin had a sign bearing the recovery number of the body inside, 009 through 018. The coffins were brought by ambulance to the airport. Then, each was carried by eight men in military formation to a waiting Indonesian Air Force airplane.

U.S. Navy vessels are involved in the search operation, with the USS Fort Worth joining the USS Sampson in the hunt for wreckage on Saturday. Twenty-two Russian divers and a Beriev BE 200 amphibious aircraft also arrived on Saturday, said Alexander Shilin, the country’s deputy ambassador to Indonesia.

The USS Sampson has recovered a dozen bodies since it joined the search operation on Monday. The bodies were among those sent by helicopter to Pangkalan Bun on Friday.

Lt. Lauren Cole, deputy public affairs officer for the 7th Fleet, said that weather conditions in the area where the Sampson has been operating have hampered operations but the ship’s two Romeo search-and-rescue helicopters have been able to operate daily.

Lt. Cole reported waves of two to four feet in the Sampson’s operation area, significantly less than the waves of about 14 feet this week by Indonesian search and rescue officials.

The AirAsia plane didn’t issue a mayday call before disappearing less than an hour into its trip near a group of intense storm cells.

On Friday night, AirAsia Chief Executive


Tony Fernandes

traveled to the city of Palembang, South Sumatra, for the funeral of flight attendant Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, whose body was among the first recovered. She was found wearing her uniform and a nametag.

“I am arriving in Surabaya to take Nisa home,” Mr. Fernandes said on Twitter. “I cannot describe how I feel. There are no words.”

A member of the Indonesian Air Force Special Forces looks out the window of a helicopter during an operation over Kumai Bay, Indonesia, on Jan. 2.

Indonesian Muslims offer special prayers for the victims of Flight 8501 at the Al-Akbar National Mosque in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Jan. 2.

Indonesian military personnel carry the coffins of victims recovered from Flight 8501 on Jan. 1.

Indonesian military personnel carry the coffin of a victim recovered from the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501 at Surabaya, East Java, on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014.

Relatives of passengers cry after visiting the crisis center at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, on Wednesday.

Members of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency and air force carry a body from a helicopter at Iskandar Military Airport at Pangkalan Bun, in Borneo, Indonesia.

At Pangkalan Bun, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes visits the command center of the search operation for the victims of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 on Wednesday.

At the crisis center at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, a relative shows a photo of four family members who were passengers on AirAsia Flight QZ8501 when it crashed in the Java Sea on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014.

Relatives at Juanda International Airport provide passenger details to help identification of the victims of the AirAsia crash.

Indonesian navy divers inspect their gear at Pangkalan Bun airport before they start their search for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ8501 on Wednesday, Dec. 31., 2104.

A prayer service for the victims of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 crash at the Indonesian Air Force Military Base Operation Airport in Surabaya.

—Richard C. Paddock, Anita Rachman, Jake Maxwell Watts and Gaurav Raghuvanshi contributed to this article.

Write to I Made Sentana at i-made.sentana@wsj.com and Ben Otto at ben.otto@wsj.com

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