S'pore navy ship finds AirAsia jet fuselage

A SINGAPORE navy ship has located the fuselage of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, raising hopes that more of the 162 passengers will be found.

The finding of the main part of the aircraft comes 18 days after the plane crashed into the Java Sea during stormy weather on a routine flight between Surabaya and Singapore.

"We have informed Basarnas, the Indonesian search authority, who can now begin recovery operations," said Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a post yesterday on his official Facebook account.

Basarnas is the search and rescue agency that is leading the international operation to recover the plane's wreckage.

Dr Ng's post was accompanied by three images taken by a remotely operated vehicle that show parts of the wing and words on the fuselage.

The words "now" and "everyone" are visible on the images, matching the slogan "Now everyone can fly" painted on the side of the AirAsia plane.

He said the wreckage with wings was about 26m long and about 2km from the place where the tail was found.

After news of the fuselage find, AirAsia's chief Tony Fernandes tweeted: "It is so so sad though seeing our aircraft. I'm gutted and devastated. But hopefully we can find the rest of plane and put closure for families."

The find comes a day after the cockpit voice recorder was retrieved, and two days after the flight data recorder was fished out. Both are now in Jakarta, where investigators have downloaded data to begin analysing the cause of the crash.

Yesterday's discovery was significant as the fuselage is the part of the plane believed to hold most of the passengers. To date, only 48 bodies, or fewer than a third of those on board, have been recovered.

The find also comes as the search operations off Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, scale down, while officials in Jakarta begin their scrutiny of regulatory missteps.

On the first day of a parliamentary hearing into the crash yesterday, Indonesia AirAsia's president director, Mr Sunu Widyatmoko, admitted "administrative negligence" when requesting a change in its Surabaya-Singapore flight schedule.

He said the airline was allowed to fly only four days a week - on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - but it had put in a verbal request to the Transport Ministry's directorate-general of air transportation to change this to Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

"I admit that administrative negligence occurred when requesting the change in flight schedule, as the verbal information failed to reach the ministry," Mr Sunu said.

The admission is a sign of lax implementation of regulations in a sector which international auditors deem to have poor safety oversight.

In Surabaya, the forensics team identified two more bodies, bringing to 38 the number out of those recovered who have been identified. They are Mr Christanto Leoma Hutama, 22, from East Java, and Ms J. Stevani Gunawan, 21, from Surabaya.

"The two bodies are difficult to identify using the primary method, so the forensics team used secondary data such as items of clothing they had on as matched to the CCTV," East Java police's medical and health department chief Budiyono told reporters.

Basarnas chief Bambang Soelistyo, who had on Tuesday visited a crisis post in Surabaya, assured the victims' families that even if operations scale down, the search team will still try to locate their missing loved ones.


This article was first published on January 15, 2015.
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