AirAsia update: debris from flight confirmed; airline was implementing real-time tracking

Dec. 30, 2014: Debris and bodies have been found and confirmed coming from AirAsia Flight QZ8501, bringing closure for the families and friends of the flight that disappeared on Sunday local time.

Reports of shadows that could be a wing or fuselage in water about 30 meters deep have also been seen.

Some debris and bodies have already been recovered.

If the main body of the wreckage has also been spotted, recovery of the all-important flight data and cockpit voice recorders could come rather quickly.

Recovery of bodies will enable autopsies to be performed and could provide some of the quickest clues about the final moments of the flight. If death was due to blunt force trauma, this could suggest passengers were alive upon impact with the water. If death came from other circumstances, this could suggest an explosive decompression and in-flight break up occurred.

Forensic analysis of the debris recovered floating on the surface may or may not provide enough indication of the condition of the airplane during the final moments. Recovery of the main wreckage will provide more definitive clues. But the black boxes will be the key to what happened and how. The flight data recorder will provide thousands of data points that will give the altitude, engine operating status, flight control status, flight parameters, etc., that will paint a picture of what happened.

The cockpit voice recorder will provide audible evidence of what was going on in the cockpit and even the passenger cabin, as well as any sounds of the airplane breaking up. The data from the FDR and CVR assumes these vital pieces of equipment were working properly right up to the point of destruction of the airplane.

While the fundamentals of the accident will be learned fairly quickly once wreckage and the recorders are recovered and analyzed, a final determination of the probable cause of the accident typically takes 12-18 months. Information from the airline’s dispatch office, weather forecasts and background checks on the pilots will be analyzed. As a matter of routine mechanical issues and potential sabotage will also be considered.

Initial information may result in procedural changes that could help avoid future accidents. Also likely to be considered is whether to finally mandate real-time flight tracking, which would have enabled quicker location of the crash site.

AirAsia was in the process of equipping its fleet with tracking devices that would transmit a flight’s position every two minutes when Flight 8501 disappeared Sunday local time, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. AirAsia began the voluntary upgrade after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared nine months ago. It still has not been found.

The airplane in question had not been upgraded, the newspaper reported.

We urged Monday that real-time tracking be implement, and several other media chimed in as well. Mary Kirby’s Runway Girl Network has been advocating this and has this report.

10 Comments on “AirAsia update: debris from flight confirmed; airline was implementing real-time tracking

  1. Eerie sense of AF 442 deja vue. Very bad whether, very sudden disappearance, no communication that we know of with air traffic controllers before crash. Failure of complicated flight control system or of crew to use it properly under great tension and very limited time to act?

    • Are you aware that you’re making statistics on the basis of only two events (out of millions of flights) ?
      Anyway, in case of a stall, a pilot has the same limited time to recover in the cockpit of a Boeing than in an Airbus’ one. Is anybody able to say how many Boeing pilots have been able to recover from a catastrophic stall ?
      On the other hand nobody is able to tally how many crashes have been avoided thanks to Airbus flight control system. But we can suppose that laws (like Alpha Floor) which have been implemented by Airbus have already saved lives but obviously nobody can tell.
      Nota : we are supposing that the AirAsia crash was due to a stall but actually nobody knows so far.

    • CubJ3: Are you aware that the weather for AF447 was not all that bad?
      And that it is AF447 not AF442?

      Speculation was AF447 saw very bad weather, they did not, pitots simply iced up and they did not follow the correct procedure to deal with.

  2. Enough delay, real time tracking needs to be implemented as quickly as possible and before the next accident. Maybe if the regulators had a family member on board it may speed things up.

  3. Scott,
    The Captain had 20,000 hours, this happened at 5:30 am which means that the crew the would have woken up at 2-3 am. nobody yet mentioned: What was their roster like vs fatigue?
    moreover , would the use (or lack of it ) of the weather radar be a factor in this incident?

  4. Pingback: QZ8501: Debris Field and First Bodies Reportedly Found | Aviation Impact Reform

  5. Most importantly what continue to be no used that really tells you what you need to know is cockpit video

    We had it with Spaceship 2 and it answered the question what happened, when someone does something wrong you then have to question the telemetry as it may make zero sense. video does not tell you why of course, but it does tell you what occurred.

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