Transport Ministry Says AirAsia License Incomplete for Route

JANUARY 03, 2015

Jakarta. The AirAsia plane that crashed off Indonesia was flying on an unauthorised schedule, the country’s transport ministry said on Saturday, adding it had now frozen the airline’s permission to fly the route.

As two large parts of the plane were found on the sea bed late on Friday by the international search team, director general of air transport Djoko Murjatmodjo said the doomed airliner’s flight time had not been cleared by officials.

Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea with 162 people on board en route from Indonesia’s second city Surabaya to Singapore early on Sunday.

“It violated the route permit given, the schedule given, that’s the problem,” he told AFP. “AirAsia’s permit for the route has been frozen because it violated the route permit given.”

He said the permit would be frozen until investigations were completed.

A statement from transport ministry spokesman JA Barata said AirAsia was not permitted to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route on Sundays and had not asked to change its schedule.

It was unclear how the airliner had been able to fly without the necessary authorisation.

The plane was operated by AirAsia Indonesia, a unit of Malaysia-based AirAsia, which previously had a solid safety record.

On Saturday, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said that two large parts of the plane had been found in the search area at depth of around 30m, raising hopes that its black boxes will be recovered soon.

Bambang Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta that the multinational search team came across the objects off the island of Borneo late on Friday night.

“With the discovery of an oil spill and two big parts of the aircraft, I can assure you these are the parts of the AirAsia plane we have been looking for,” Soelistyo said.

He said the larger of the objects was around 10m x 5m.

“As I speak we are lowering an ROV [remotely operated underwater vehicle] underwater to get an actual picture of the objects detected on the sea floor. All are at the depth of 30 metres,” Soelistyo said.

He added however that a strong current was making it difficult to operate the ROV.

The families of victims have been preparing funerals as the bodies recovered are identified in Surabaya, where a crisis centre has been set up at a police hospital with facilities to store 150 bodies.

Before take-off, the pilot of Flight 8501 had asked for permission to fly at a higher altitude to avoid a storm, but the request was not approved due to other planes above him on the popular route, according to AirNav, Indonesia’s air traffic control.

In his last communication shortly before all contact was lost, he said he wanted to change course to avoid the menacing storm system.

Agence France-Presse