Monday 29 December 2014

Air Asia QZ8501 Was Not Equipped With Satcom

Aviation and safety expert David Soucie noted an interesting observation today on CNN in a discussion about missing AirAsia Flight 8501. In the overflow of media interest about the state of modern aircraft tracking, it's something that should not be easily passed over.

Take a look at the following images; one of AirAsia QZ8501, and two more images of a Virgin Australia and Airbus library photograph of an A320. Spot the difference?

QZ8501 - No SATCOM Box

Virgin Australia with SATCOM Box
A320 with SATCOM Box

What Soucie noted was the absence of SATCOM on QZ8501.

What is SATCOM?

You will find a pretty good explanation at this link.

It is just one more piece of equipment that makes the search for missing aircraft that much easier...

Sunday 28 December 2014

Search For AirAsia 8501 Set To Resume

The search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 will resume in several hours at first light (05.30 WIT). While the search is technically still at the rescue stage, Indonesia and Singaporean search teams know that as each hour passes, the operation is increasingly likely to become a recovery mission. Searchers still have a great deal in their favour. The waters of the Java Sea are shallow (about 150ft) and the area is has a multitude of islands, including Belitung Island, the closest landmass to the aircraft when it disappeared from Indonesian ATC radar at 06.24 yesterday.

The Air Asia flight encountered heavy storm fronts and had requested to climb to 38,000 ft. It's believed that many of the 155 passengers were travelling for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Famalies of the missing passengers spent a difficult Sunday night in gathered together in Surabaya, Indonesia awaiting news.

Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 (registered PK-ACX) was a scheduled passenger flight from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore. The aircraft was an Airbus A320-216 (using CFM56 engines) and it went missing over the Java Sea on 28th December 2014 carrying 155 passengers and 7 crew on board. Records released soon after the aircraft went missing show that the A320 first flew in 2008 and had a full maintenance check last month.

AirAsia is a low-cost budget airline based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The company was founded in 1993 and this is its first ever suspected hull loss. The accident is the third in 2014 involving a Malaysian airline or its affiliate following the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flights 370 and 17.

The flight took off from Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, at 05:35 Western Indonesian Time (WIT) and was due to arrive at Singapore Changi Airport at 08:30 Singapore Standard Time (SGT), with a flight time of less than 2 hours.

The plane was under Indonesian air traffic control when the crew requested to deviate from its original flight path due to heavy tropical storm fronts at 06.13 (WIT). This was the last radio communication Indonesian ATC had with the crew of QZ8501. The area where the aircraft went missing is part of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). As part of the flight deviation, the pilot requested a slight left heading change and an assent from FL320 (32,000 ft) to FL380. Storm clouds in the area reached up to 50-53,000 ft.

ATC lost radar contact with QZ8501 at 06:17 WIB, though there are conflicting reports when exactly radar contact was lost or last seen. Some reports have referenced 06.24 (WIT). There was also an initial report that the aircraft's ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) was still sending positioning data via satellite for up to 30 minutes after it went missing.

There is some concern at the speed of QZ8501 at the time of its ascent to FL380. Flight radar released after its disappearance shows a speed of 353knts at an altitude of 36,300 considerably slower than a similar flight in the area flying at FL360.

The flight crew did not send any distress signal during any communications with Indonesian ATC.

Captain Iriyanto had a total of 20,537 flying hours (of which 6,100 flying hours were with AirAsia Indonesia on the Airbus A320). The First Officer was RĂ©mi Emmanuel Plesel, who had a total of 2,275 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia. Curiously, this short haul flight also had a Flight Engineer on board, Saiful Rakhmad. It is not clear if Rakhmad was actually in the cockpit for the flight.

This is the nationality list of the passengers:

Nationalities of passengers:

  • 1 Singapore
  • 1 Malaysia
  • 3 South Korea
  • 1 United Kingdom
  • 149 Indonesia

The aircraft was officially declared missing at 07.55 (WIT). Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency deployed seven ships and two helicopters to search the shores of Belitung and Kalimantan. The Indonesian Navy and the provincial Indonesian National Police Air and Water Unit each sent out search and rescue teams. In addition, an Indonesian Air Force Boeing 737 reconnaissance aircraft was dispatched to the last known location of the airliner (3.2466°S 109.3682°E).

The Indonesian Navy confirmed that it had dispatched four ships by the end of the first search day, joining the initial search efforts. Further aircraft, among them, a CASA/IPTN CN-235, have also joined from the Indonesian Air Force. The Indonesian Army deployed ground troops to search the shores and mountains of adjacent islands.

Singapore's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC), managed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and supported by various agencies, including the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), has also initially deployed a C-130 Hercules aircraft to aid in the search and rescue operation. An officer from Singapore will be deployed to Jakarta to coordinate with the Indonesian authorities on the search operations, and two more C-130 Hercules aircraft will be deployed for the second day of the search and rescue operation.

Malaysia's government has also set up a rescue coordination center at Subang and has deployed three military vessels and three aircraft, including a C-130 Hercules, to assist in search and rescue operation.

Air search operations were suspended on the evening of December 28th due to darkness and resumed at 05.00 (WIT) on Monday, December 29th.

Passenger Flight Manifest

The Load and Trim Sheet is displayed below:

Tuesday 9 December 2014

MH17 Wreckage Arrives in the Netherlands

via Reuters
The first wreckage of MH17 arrived this afternoon in the Netherlands. Shortly after 2pm today two convoys of eight flatbed trucks reached Gilze-Rijen Airforce Base where the wreckage will be cataloged and examined before re-assembly next year. The first convoys left the Ukraine more than a week ago and have traveled the journey by road, mostly at night. The trucks crossed over the German/Dutch border around 3am this morning.

The Dutch Safety Board facilitated 40 relatives of the passengers and crew at Gilze-Rijen when the convoy arrived today. The DSB and the Dutch Department of Public Prosecutions will commence separate investigations into the cause and downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over Eastern Ukraine on July 17th. The DSB will begin its technical examination of the Boeing 777 to ascertain HOW and WHAT brought about the downing of MH17, leading to the loss of 298 crew and passengers. The DPP will focus on WHO is responsible with its own criminal investigation.

The frontal area of the aircraft will be rebuilt on a specially designed rig in a hangar at Gilze-Rijen. This is believed to be the section of the aircraft which suffered a massive external blast. Investigators are working on two theories - 1. That the Boeing 777 was brought down by a BUK surface-to-air proximity missile, or 2. That the aircraft was brought down by air-to-air 30mm canon and/or missile fire from one or more fighter jets.

Both investigations will utilize Dutch and foreign military experts to examine aircraft parts displaying inward and outward puncture holes in the cockpit and front cargo hold (walls, floor and roof). It remains unclear if this damage was caused by penetrating metal from a proximity warhead or the more uniformed damaged caused by a series of canon-fire bursts.

The DSB will allow relatives to view the wreckage once the cataloging and re-assembly has begun in early 2015.

On December 17th, it will be exactly six months since the downing of MH17. Anti-government rebels in Eastern Ukraine have denied that they were in possession of a BUK missile launcher, and the Russian Federation has also denied it supplied or aided rebels in the area to target the passenger jet, instead citing their own satellite data showing the presence of a Ukrainian fighter jet close to MH17. The United States administration has maintained that MH17 was downed by a BUK missile launcher, citing satellite intelligence data and social media activity on the day of the tragedy.

As of now, no side has provided categorical evidence supporting its claims to the DSB or Dutch DPP.

Monday 1 December 2014

MH17 Wreckage Begins its Final Journey

The wreckage from flight MH17 began its final journey to the Netherlands this morning (Dec 1st) according to the Dutch Safety Board. The first of several truck convoys will depart the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv where the wreckage has been stored since investigators recovered substantial parts of the aircraft nearly two weeks ago.

Throughout this week the Dutch Safety Board will oversee Ministry of Defence personnel load several truck convoys which will then make their way by road across Europe to Gilze Rijen Air Base in the Netherlands.

It is there that investigators will finally begin their critical examination and reconstruction of part of the aircraft. The first of these convoys will arrive at the Gilze Rijen Air Base next week. The exact date will be announced prior to its arrival.

Logistics specialists from the Ministry of Defence advised the Dutch Safety Board that the best option for transportation was by road due to the size of some aircraft parts. Much smaller parts remain at the several sites spread across three villages in Eastern Ukraine. It is thought unlikely investigators will recover any more wreckage and local contractors will remove what wreckage remains.

The Dutch Safety Board delivered its preliminary report earlier this year, stating that the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 298 passengers and crew was brought down by an external force. It is due to deliver its final report in 2015.