The pilot onboard Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 was probably not able to do a 'controlled ditching' of the plane on Sunday morning before it crashed in the Java sea, said an aviation expert to Bloomberg on Wednesday.
"That's clear from the finding of bodies that don't have life jackets on," said Mr Paul Hayes, safety director at London-based aviation consulting company Ascend Worldwide Ltd.
Controlled ditching, or water landing, refers to an emergency landing on water. Such landings are rare for commercial passenger airlines.
According to Reuters, investigators are focusing on the timing of the crew's request to climb to a higher altitude to avoid bad weather as a possible factor behind the tragedy, a source close to the probe said.
Among the early lines of inquiry is whether the crew could have asked to ascend, or climbed on their own initiative in case of emergency, at an earlier stage, and what role storms in the area might have played.
The "black box" flight recorders have yet to be located, however, and the source cautioned that it was too early to draw firm conclusions as to what went wrong.
Three bodies from the doomed flight were found on Tuesday afternoon, more than 48 hours after the Airbus A320-200 disappeared en route from Indonesia's second largest city Surabaya to Singapore. It was carrying 162 people.
However, stormy weather on Wednesday forced Indonesian rescuers to suspend their search for more bodies.
"We are experiencing bad weather now. Rains and winds prevented us from resuming the search operation this morning," air force rescue coordinator S.B. Supriyadi told AFP.
National Search and Rescue Agency chief Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference Wednesday that six bodies had now been recovered, including a woman in crew uniform.
"As soon as the weather is clear, the bodies will be brought to Pangkalan Bun," the town with the nearest airstrip to the crash site, said Soelistyo.
Supriyadi said that hundreds of people from the military, police and national rescue agency were on standby waiting for clear weather in Pangkalan Bun.
The plane crashed into the Java Sea southwest of the island of Borneo, with debris including an exit door and a blue suitcase so far retrieved from the area.
A navy spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that more than 40 bodies had been recovered, but he later said that report was a miscommunication by his staff.
During Tuesday's searches, an air force plane saw a "shadow" on the seabed believed to be that of the missing flight, where all search efforts are now being concentrated, Soelistyo said.
President Joko Widodo met the passengers' relatives in Surabaya on Tuesday, where a crisis centre has been set up, and he promised to ensure a massive search.
Flamboyant AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes also visited the centre and said he was experiencing an airline chief executive's "worst nightmare".
"This is a scar with me for the rest of my life," he told reporters.
Relatives of passengers on the plane began crying hysterically and fainting on Tuesday as Indonesian television footage showed a body floating in the sea during aerial searches.