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Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501

Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501
PK-AXC, the aircraft involved in the crash, eight months before the accident
Accident summary
Date 28 December 2014 (2014-12-28)
Summary Stalled and crashed into the Java Sea; cause of this remains unknown.

Karimata Strait, Java Sea (near Belitung and Borneo Islands, Indonesia)[1]
3°37′23″S 109°42′43″E / 3.623°S 109.712°E / -3.623; 109.712 (AirAsia Flight 8501 debris field)Coordinates: 3°37′23″S 109°42′43″E / 3.623°S 109.712°E / -3.623; 109.712 (AirAsia Flight 8501 debris field){{#coordinates:-3.623 |109.712 | dim:500km_region:ID_type:event |||||| |primary |name=AirAsia Flight 8501 debris field

Passengers 155
Crew 7
Fatalities 162 (all)[2]
113 bodies found[3]
Survivors 0[2]
Aircraft type Airbus A320-216
Operator Indonesia AirAsia
Registration PK-AXC
Flight origin Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, Indonesia
Destination Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore

Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 (QZ8501/AWQ8501) was a scheduled international passenger flight, operated by AirAsia Group affiliate Indonesia AirAsia, from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. On 28 December 2014, the aircraft operating the route, an Airbus A320-216, crashed into the Java Sea during bad weather, killing all 155 passengers and seven crew on board.[4] Two days after the crash, debris from the aircraft and human remains were found floating in the Java Sea. Searchers located wreckage on the sea floor beginning on 3 January, and the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were recovered by 13 January. The search for bodies ended in March 2015 after recovery of 106 of the 162 bodies.

On 20 January 2015, it was reported that the aircraft had stalled during an abnormally steep climb and had been unable to recover.

The accident is the second-deadliest in Indonesian territory, behind Garuda Indonesia Flight 152 in 1997, the third-deadliest aviation incident in 2014, behind Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and the second-deadliest involving an A320, behind TAM Airlines Flight 3054 in 2007.[5] It was also AirAsia Group's first fatal accident in the 18-year history of the company.


File:QZ8501 flight path.png
Flight path and location of debris. Flight path (red) is limited to range of Flightradar24 coverage; it does not reflect ATC coverage.

Flight 8501 was a scheduled flight from Surabaya, Java, Indonesia to Singapore on Sunday, 28 December 2014. It was scheduled to depart Juanda International Airport at 05:20 Western Indonesian Time (WIB, UTC+7) and arrive at Singapore Changi Airport at 08:30 Singapore Standard Time (SST, UTC+8).[6] Flight 8501 took off at 05:35.[b] Indonesia AirAsia did not have permission from the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation to operate the route on Sundays.[c][9]

After departure, Flight 8501 was in contact with the Jakarta Area Control Centre (callsign: "Jakarta Center"),[10] which provides air traffic control (ATC) service over the western Java Sea, and flying along air route M635,[10] when it approached a line of thunderstorms off the southwest coast of Borneo.[11] At 06:12, Flight 8501 was flying at flight level 320—approximately Script error: No such module "convert".—when the cockpit requested and received permission to deviate left from its original flight path to avoid these storms.[12] The pilot then requested to climb to flight level 380,[13] which was deferred by ATC because of other aircraft in the vicinity.[10][14][15][16] AirNav Indonesia, which operates the Jakarta Area Control Centre, reported that Jakarta Centre then cleared Flight 8501 to flight level 340 at 06:14,[d] but no response was received; other aircraft in the vicinity were asked to contact Flight 8501, but also did not receive a response.[10][17]

Between 06:17:00 and 06:17:54, the aircraft climbed from Script error: No such module "convert".,[18] exceeding a climb rate of Script error: No such module "convert". per minute, about twice the maximum rate that a commercial aircraft should climb in still air.[19][20] A photo of a secondary radar screen, without a timestamp, showed the aircraft at flight level 363—approximately Script error: No such module "convert".—and climbing with a ground speed of Script error: No such module "convert"., which is too slow to maintain stable level flight in still air.[16][21] The Indonesian Minister of Transport interpreted the apparent aircraft behaviour at peak altitude as an aerodynamic stall, when it began to descend at 06:17:54, descending Script error: No such module "convert". within six seconds and Script error: No such module "convert". within 31 seconds.[18] The aircraft also began a turn to the left, forming at least one complete circle before disappearing from radar at 06:18:44.[18][22][23] The cockpit voice recorder captured multiple warnings, including a stall warning, sounding in the cockpit during the final minutes of the flight.[24] No distress signal was sent from the aircraft.[25][26]

Timeline of disappearance

Elapsed (HH:MM) Time Event
00:00 27 December 28 December Flight departed from Juanda International Airport.[b] Scheduled departure was 05:20 WIB.[6]
22:35 05:35 06:35
00:37 23:12 06:12 07:12 Pilots requested and received air traffic controller (ATC) clearance to divert left from the flight plan to avoid bad weather. The pilot then also requested permission to climb from Script error: No such module "convert". to Script error: No such module "convert".. Jakarta ATC deferred this request because of traffic.[6][13][14]
00:39 23:14 06:14 07:14 ATC offered permission to climb, but no response was received from pilots.[17]
00:42 23:17 06:17 07:17 Radar contact was lost, according to AirNav Indonesia. AirAsia initially reported that contact was lost at 06:24.[6][8][27][28]
00:43 23:18 06:18 07:18 ADS-B transponder signal was lost, with last position reported as 3°22′15″S 109°41′28″E / 3.3708°S 109.6911°E / -3.3708; 109.6911 (last transponder signal){{#coordinates:-3.3708|109.6911 | dim:500km_region:ID_type:event name=last transponder signal

}}, according to Indonesia's Ministry of Transport.[22]

01:20 23:55 06:55 07:55 AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was officially declared missing. Its last known position is over the Java Sea, Karimata Strait between the islands of Belitung and Kalimantan.[29]
01:55 28 December 07:30 08:30 The aircraft missed scheduled arrival at Singapore Changi Airport.
04:47 03:22 10:22 11:22 Search and rescue (SAR) operations were activated by the Indonesia National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) from the Pangkal Pinang office.[30]
04:55 03:30 10:30 11:30 The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) Crisis Management Centres were reported to have been activated, working with the airline’s crisis management team.[31]
05:06 03:41 10:41 11:41 AirAsia announced on Facebook and Twitter (six minutes later) that AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore lost contact with air traffic control.[32][33]

Search and recovery

Shortly after the aircraft was confirmed to be missing, unconfirmed reports stated that wreckage had been found off the island of Belitung in Indonesia.[34][35][36] Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) deployed seven ships and two helicopters to search the shores of Belitung and Kalimantan.[37] The Indonesian Navy and the provincial Indonesian National Police Air and Water Unit each sent out search and rescue teams.[38] In addition, an Indonesian Air Force Boeing 737 reconnaissance aircraft was dispatched to the last known location of the airliner.[39]

The Indonesian Navy dispatched four ships by the end of the first search day and the Air Force deployed aircraft including a CASA/IPTN CN-235.[40] The Indonesian Army deployed ground troops to search the shores and mountains of adjacent islands.[41] Local fishermen also participated in the search.

Ongoing search and rescue operations were under the guidance of the Civil Aviation Authority of Indonesia.[42] The search was suspended at 7:45 pm local time on 28 December due to darkness and bad weather, to be resumed in daylight.[43] An operations center to coordinate search efforts was set up in Pangkal Pinang.[44] The search area was a Script error: No such module "convert". radius near Belitung Island.[6]

Search and rescue operations quickly became an international effort. By 30 December naval and air units from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia had joined Indonesian authorities in patrolling designated search areas.[45] Singapore's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) deployed three C-130 Hercules aircraft to aid in the search and rescue operation.[46][47] A Formidable-class frigate, a Victory-class corvette, a Landing Ship Tank, and a submarine support and rescue vessel subsequently took part in the search and rescue after Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency accepted the offer of help from the Republic of Singapore Navy. Singapore's Ministry of Transport provided specialist teams from the Air Accident and Investigation Bureau and underwater locator equipment.[47] The Malaysian government set up a rescue coordination centre at Subang and deployed three military vessels and three aircraft, including a C-130, to assist in search and rescue operations.[48][49][50] Australia deployed a P-3 Orion to assist in the search and rescue operation.[51] India put three ships and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft on standby for assistance in the search operation, including one ship in the Bay of Bengal and another in the Andaman Sea.[52] Elements of the United States Navy joined the search effort; USS Sampson arrived on station late on 30 December,[53] and USS Fort Worth on 3 January.[54]

Various vessels and aircraft from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, South Korea, Japan, China, the United States, and Russia participated in the search.[55][56][57][58] This fleet included three ships with "under water" detectors and two fuel tankers seconded to ensure efficient operation of the vessels in the search area.[59] On 2 January the Indonesian Ministry of Transport reported that two other Indonesian tender vessels had been fitted with equipment which could detect acoustic signals from the flight recorder ("black box") beacons and airframe metal, as well as multibeam side scan sonar.[60] Personnel on both vessels included representatives from Singapore and the US NTSB.[citation needed]

The official search for bodies ended on 17 March, after 106 bodies had been recovered. Fifty-six bodies remained unaccounted for.[3]


File:Crest Onyx with the tail of Air Asia Flight QZ8501 on its stern.jpg
An offshore supply ship with the tail of PK-AXC on its stern on 10 January 2015

On the day of the disappearance, a fisherman observed "a lot of debris, small and large, near Pulau Tujuh. [...] It looked like the Air Asia colours."[61][62][63] Another fisherman reported that, while moored on Sunday at Pulau Senggora, south of the town of Pangkalan Bun in Central Kalimantan, "Around 7am, I heard a loud booming sound. Soon afterwards, there was haze that usually happened only during the dry season. [...] Before the booming sound, my friends saw a plane from above Pulau Senggaro heading towards the sea. The plane was said to be flying relatively low but then disappeared."[64][65]

The fishermen's reports, delivered after they had returned home the next day, were credited with guiding the search and rescue team to the vicinity of the crash.[64] The first items of wreckage were spotted by search aircraft on 30 December in the Karimata Strait, Script error: No such module "convert". from where the crew last contacted air traffic control,[66][67][68][69] and three bodies were recovered by the warship KRI Bung Tomo.[70][71][72][73][e] Also on 30 December Indonesia's Search and Rescue Services reported that wreckage of the aircraft had been located on the Java Sea floor, Script error: No such module "convert". southwest of Pangkalan Bun.[citation needed]

On 31 December, Basarnas claimed that a sonar image obtained 30 December by an Indonesian naval ship appeared to show an aircraft upside-down on the seabed in about 24–30 m (80–100 ft) of water, approximately Script error: No such module "convert". from the debris found on 30 December.[76][77][78] The head of the Search and Rescue Agency also denied the existence of any sonar images of the wreckage (as well as the reported recovery of a body wearing a life vest).[22] He stressed that only official information from his Search and Rescue service can be considered to be reliable.

On 2 January 2015, Basarnas reported evidence of a fuel slick on the water surface in the search area, but detection of the fuselage remained unconfirmed.[59]

At a press conference given on the morning of 3 January by Basarnas, the discovery of two large submerged objects was reported: 9.4m × 4.8m × 0.4m, and a thin object 7.2m × 0.5m.[79] Also, the previously reported fuel slick was confirmed. A later media report mentioned four large sections of wreckage, the largest being 18m × 5.4m × 2.2m located at 3°55′27″S 110°31′31″E / 3.9242°S 110.5252°E / -3.9242; 110.5252 (first wreckage){{#coordinates:-3.9242|110.5252|type:landmark|||||| | |name=first wreckage }}.[80] Later in the day, Basarnas announced[81] the discovery of the two larger "adjacent" objects in the afternoon of 3 January was confirmed, but apparently not "adjacent" to the first two somewhat separated items found the previous day. The two additional items were observed to be 18m × 5.4m × 2.2m and 12.4m × 0.6m × 0.5m. No more bodies were found, leaving the total at 30. The search resources were reported to include 5 fixed-wing aircraft, 9 helicopters, and 26 ships, including the two tankers.[citation needed] Fuel logistics for this fleet requires careful planning. Twenty-two Russian divers arrived.[citation needed] The 3–4m wave height on 4 January prevented diving, but better conditions were expected the following day. Personal effects such as glasses and shoes were discovered in the area.[82][not in citation given]

On 7 January divers found parts of the aircraft including a portion of the tail.[83] Other portions of the tail are expected to lie nearby.[84][85] On 10 January divers used an inflatable device to bring the aircraft's tail to the surface of the sea.[86][87] They continued to search the sea floor within Script error: No such module "convert". of where faint pings were heard.[88]

On 11 January a sonar scan detected an object measuring 10 metres × 4 metres × 2.5 metres on the sea floor, and divers began work to verify the discovery and confirm that it was the fuselage of the missing aircraft.[citation needed]

The flight data recorder was recovered by Indonesian divers on 12 January at 3°37′21″S 109°42′42″E / 3.6225°S 109.7117°E / -3.6225; 109.7117 (Flight Data Recorder salvage location){{#coordinates:-3.6225 |109.7117 |dim:500km_region:ID_type:event |||||| | |name=Flight Data Recorder salvage location }},[89] within Script error: No such module "convert". of part of the fuselage and tail.[22] Later in the day the cockpit voice recorder was located[90] and was recovered the following day.[91]

On 14 January searchers located a large portion of the fuselage with one wing attached.[92] On 25 January ropes around the fuselage snapped during an initial failed effort to raise the wreckage. Four bodies were recovered, taking the total recovered to 69. More bodies were thought to be inside. Rear Admiral Widodo, who is in charge of recovery operations, said that the fuselage might be too fragile to be lifted.[93]

On 27 February salvage workers recovered a large piece of fuselage, including the wings, of the A320. As of March 2015 all large pieces of fuselage from the jet have been lifted from the seafloor and moved for investigation purposes. Among the debris, searchers found bleached bones of the deceased, along with mobile phones and other personal items.[94]


The aircraft was an Airbus A320-216,[f] with serial number 3648, registered as PK-AXC. It first flew on 25 September 2008, and was delivered to AirAsia on 15 October 2008. The aircraft had accumulated approximately 23,000 flight hours over 13,600 flights. It had undergone its most recent scheduled maintenance on 16 November 2014.[8] The aircraft was powered by two CFM International CFM56-5B6 engines and was configured to carry 180 passengers.[95]

Passengers and crew

Persons on board by nationality:[96]
Nationality No.
Template:Country data Indonesia[g] 155
Template:Country data South Korea 3
23x15px France[h] 1
23x15px Malaysia 1
23x15px Singapore 1
23x15px United Kingdom[i][97] 1
Total 162

AirAsia released details of the 155 passengers which included 137 adults, 17 children, and one infant. The crew consisted of two pilots and four flight attendants. A company engineer was also on board and was not counted as one of the passengers.[98]

The pilots on board the flight were:[99]

  • Captain Iriyanto,[j] age 53, an Indonesian national, had a total of 20,537 flying hours, of which 6,100 were with AirAsia Indonesia on the Airbus A320. The captain began his career with the Indonesian Air Force, graduating from pilot school in 1983 and flying jet fighter aircraft. He took early retirement from the air force in the mid-1990s to join Adam Air, and later worked for Merpati Nusantara Airlines and Sriwijaya Air before joining Indonesia AirAsia.[100]
  • First Officer Rémi Emmanuel Plesel, age 46, a French national, had a total of 2,275 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia.[98] He was originally from Le Marigot, Martinique,[101] and had studied and worked in Paris. He was living in Indonesia.[102]

41 people who were on board the AirAsia flight were members of a single church congregation. Most were families with young children travelling to Singapore for a new year's holiday.[103] A family of 10 missed the flight because of misinformation. Christianawati Putro Cahyono and her extended family were not aware that the flight was re-scheduled to depart earlier than the original scheduled time by two hours. It was supposed to take off at 7.30 PM, but was re-scheduled to 5.20 AM. [104] Another Indonesian family of 5 cancelled their booking on the flight after their grandfather got ill. [105]

The first funeral for a victim of the incident was held in Surabaya, Indonesia for Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, who was the first crash victim to be identified. Her gravestone was marked on the 28th of December, 2014.[106] East Java head DVI ( Department of Visual Identification ) commissioner Budiyono stated in a media conference at the Crisis Centre, Bhayangkara Hospital on Thursday the 1st of January, Thursday and stated that the victims were identified by the means of post-mortem results, thumb prints and their personal belongings. The body was handed over to the family on the same day and was one of the bodies that was sent to the hospital, the other body being male.[107]


The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT or NTSC). KNKT planned to submit a preliminary ADREP report to the ICAO within the required 30 days after the crash,[108] or 27 January.[109] The release of investigation report is scheduled for August 2015.[110]

Data from the flight data recorder were downloaded.[111] 124 minutes of cockpit dialogue was successfully extracted from the cockpit voice recorder. The sound of many alarms from the flight system can be heard in the final minutes, almost drowning out the voices of the pilots. The investigators ruled out a terrorist attack as the cause and said they would examine the possibility of human error or aircraft malfunction.[24] The aircraft altitude recorded by ATC radar increased from Script error: No such module "convert". to Script error: No such module "convert". between 06:17:00 and 06:17:54 WIB, at an initial rate of up to Script error: No such module "convert".. At 06:17:54, the aircraft descended from Script error: No such module "convert". to Script error: No such module "convert". in six seconds, and to Script error: No such module "convert". in 31 seconds.[18]

A malfunction of the Flight Augmentation Computer (FAC) was persistent enough to cause the captain to take the "very unusual" initiative to pull the circuit breaker for the FAC, cutting power to it a few minutes before the end of the flight. The captain left his seat to access the breaker panel behind the copilot, who was in control of the aircraft at the time.[112] The FAC is the part of the fly-by-wire system in A320 aircraft responsible for rudder control. It had been the subject of maintenance problems on previous flights of this aircraft.[113] The sudden nose-up climbing condition occurred at this time, possibly because of failure of the copilot to respond to the sudden change in control characteristics due to FAC shutdown, which eliminated protection against control inputs that exceed aerodynamic limits.[112]

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics has reported that bad weather was believed to the major factor to triggering the incident, specifically the weather phenomenon atmospheric icing "which can cause engine damage due to a cooling process".[114]



Following the disappearance, all AirAsia subsidiaries changed their website and social media branding to greyscale images, in mourning for the presumed deaths of the passengers; Changi Airport's Facebook page was similarly changed as well.[115][116] An emergency call center has also been established by the airline, for family of those who were on board the aircraft,[117] and an emergency information center was set up at Juanda International Airport, providing hourly updates and lodging for relatives.[118] Smaller posts were also opened at Soekarno–Hatta International Airport[119] and Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport.[120]

On 31 December, Indonesia AirAsia retired the flight number QZ8501, changing it to QZ678. The return flight number was also changed, from QZ8502 to QZ679.[121]


AirAsia did not have official permission to fly the Surabaya–Singapore route on Sunday – the day of the crash – but was licensed on four other days of the week, and, according to an Indonesian Ministry of Transport statement, "The Indonesian authorities are suspending the company's flights on this route with immediate effect pending an investigation."[9] In response on the same day, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) made a clarification that AirAsia QZ8501 "has been given approval at Singapore's end to operate a daily flight for the Northern Winter Season from Oct 26, 2014 to Mar 28, 2015".[122]

On 6 January, Indonesian Ministry of Transport representative Djoko Murjatmojo stated that "officials at the airport operator in Surabaya and [the] air traffic control agency who had allowed the flight to take off had been moved to other duties", and an immediate air transport directive had been issued "making it mandatory for pilots to go through a face-to-face briefing by an airline flight operations officer on weather conditions and other operational issues prior to every flight".[123]

The loss of Flight 8501 also brought attention to the lack of weather radar at Indonesian air traffic control centres.[124][125]

Family members of crew members and passengers

Air Asia has reportedly offered 32,000 dollars or 300 million rupiah to each of the grieving family members of the victims of the incident as 'initial compensation from an overall part of compensation, Wall Street Journal claimed from a letter on Air Asia stationary dated January 2 grieving family member David Thejakusuma received; who had 7 family members on the flight, the amount for each family member he lost.[126]

Legal proceedings

France has opened a criminal investigation to investigate possible manslaughter charges.[127] The family of the first officer, a French national, have filed a lawsuit against AirAsia in connection to the lack of permission to fly on that day, claiming the airline was "endangering the life of others".[127]

Air transport industry

Following the recovery of the flight recorders, on 12 and 13 January, an anonymous International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) representative said, "The time has come that deployable recorders are going to get a serious look." Unlike military recorders, which jettison away from an aircraft and float on the water, signalling their location to search and rescue bodies, recorders on commercial aircraft sink. A second ICAO official said that public attention had "galvanized momentum in favour of ejectable recorders on commercial aircraft".[128]

Indonesian tourism

Indonesia's tourism was badly affected by the incident. According to the head of Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency (CSA) Suryamin in a press conference at his office on the 1st of April, it was revealed that the accident has caused the number of foreign visitors to decline. Figures from the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has shown that the number of incoming foreign tourists at and Surabaya’s Juanda Airport has declined by 5.33 percent, Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport by 15.01 percent, and Bandung’s Husein Sastranegara Airport by 10.66 percent.[129]

See also

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  1. ^ Location where the aircraft's flight data recorder was found under wreckage on the sea floor
  2. ^ a b Also reported as occurring at 05:36 or 05:32 WIB.[7][8]
  3. ^ Indonesia AirAsia did have permission to fly this route four other days of the week.[9]
  4. ^ At least one version of the story claims that Flight 8501 requested to climb, but did not specify to what altitude and that Jakarta Centre asked for an altitude, but no response was given by Flight 8501.[17]
  5. ^ At 10:05 UTC, Reuters, quoting Indonesian official Manahan Simorangkir, reported that 40 bodies had been recovered,[74] but this was later retracted by an Indonesian navy spokesman as a "miscommunication by staff".[75]
  6. ^ The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 model; the 16 specifies it was fitted with CFM International CFM56-5B6 engines.
  7. ^ 149 passengers and six crew members, including the Captain
  8. ^ One crew member, the first officer
  9. ^ Dual British-Hong Kong citizen boarding with British passport.
  10. ^ Iriyanto is a mononym (one-word name), which is common for Indonesian names.


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