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Indonesian rescue teams said Tuesday that they had found bodies and what appeared to be debris from the AirAsia plane that vanished less than an hour after taking off from the airport here on Sunday.
Djoko Murjatmodjo, a senior official with Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry, confirmed that the debris was from Flight 8501, which was carrying 162 people when it disappeared. “We’ve confirmed the wreckage was from the body of the plane,” he said Tuesday in Jakarta, the capital.
Members of search teams told the Indonesian news media that they had spotted what appeared to be suitcases, life vests and aircraft debris. Indonesian television showed a rescuer descending from a helicopter toward a bloated corpse floating in the sea. The bodies shown on television were not wearing life jackets.
The bodies and debris were found in the Karimata Strait off the coast of Borneo. The first sightings were about 66 miles southeast of the last detected position of the plane, whose destination was in the opposite direction, toward the northwest. It was not immediately clear whether the jet had changed course in its final moments in the air.
Search teams also spotted what appeared to be a larger piece of the fuselage of the Airbus A320-200, which was operated by the Indonesian affiliate of AirAsia.
“My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501,” Tony Fernandes, the founder of AirAsia, wrote in a Twitter message soon after the debris was discovered. “On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.”
Earlier Tuesday, the Indonesian authorities had expanded the search area, suggesting that they had few leads as to the whereabouts of the plane, which vanished on Sunday morning, about 40 minutes after leaving Surabaya bound for Singapore.
“The area we are searching is huge,” Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency, said in a briefing. The total search area, including parts of Borneo and smaller islands in the Java Sea, was around 60,000 square miles, the authorities said.
A United States warship had been dispatched to join the search for the missing jet, and Mr. Soelistyo said the Indonesian government had also accepted offers from South Korea and China to help in the search.
The Java Sea, which separates the islands of Borneo and Java, is relatively shallow — around 160 feet at its deepest point — but monsoon conditions were clouding the waters, rescuers said.
Indonesian meteorologists described recovery efforts as a race against time because foul weather — heavy rains, choppy seas and higher winds — was predicted from Friday onward in the search area.
The recovery process was likely to shed light on the cause of the disaster, which has been unknown since the plane disappeared on Sunday. Speculation has ranged from bad weather to fears that the aircraft was traveling too slowly to stay airborne.
Shortly before contact with the plane was lost, its cockpit crew told air traffic controllers that they planned to raise the plane to 38,000 feet from 32,000 feet to avoid a cloud, officials said Monday.
As news spread of the grim discoveries in the sea, relatives of passengers stood despondently outside the Surabaya airport.
“I’m still hoping my brother is safe,” said Ifan Joko, who stood in a light drizzle beside the terminal where relatives and friends had gathered since Sunday.
His brother, Charly Gunawan, who was traveling to Singapore to spend the New Year holiday, was among the 162 people onboard.
“If the passengers are dead, I want the bodies brought back to Surabaya,” Mr. Ifan said. “I will pay the bill myself if I have to.”
More… http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/31/world/asia/airasia-8501-jet-missing-indonesia.html AirAsia Plane Debris and Bodies Are Found in Search
It’s been two days since AirAsia Flight 8501 disappeared over the Java Sea, and still there’s no sign of the missing plane or the 162 people aboard. It is, of course, all but impossible to know at this point just what went wrong, but we do know the flight’s planned route to Singapore would have taken it through clusters of thunderstorms, and we know the crew moved west of their course to avoid clouds.
Modern airliners are quite capable of flying above the worst weather, and they can shake off lightning strikes and extreme turbulence and even fly for hours at a time with just one engine. Given their remarkable durability, one might wonder why a thunderstorm might post so great a threat, and why pilots try to avoid them. It’s because thunderstorms combine nearly all of the hassles and hazards pilots dread.
“Thunderstorms are sort of the grandaddy of all aviation hazards because they sort of contain it all,” says Dr. Bruce Carmichael, who runs the Aviation Applications Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Turbulence, severe structural icing, engine icing, loss of visibility, lightning, wind shear, extreme updrafts and downdrafts. So virtually any hazard to aviation you can imagine.”
Today’s airliners can withstand extreme turbulence without structural damage, but a bumpy ride can injure those aboard, particularly if they’re not buckled in. About 60 people in the US are injured by turbulence annually, according to the FAA, and three people died between 1980 and 2008. Therefore, the violent updrafts and downdrafts common in thunderstorms are best avoided. “Microbursts” are especially rough; these pockets of sinking air, which occur in small or developing storms, can produce winds up to 150 mph. That’s not something you want to subject even the hardiest aircraft to.
Lightning strikes airplanes with some frequency—a commercial carrier will get hit roughly once a year according to the Flight Safety Foundation—but it isn’t a serious concern. The jolt of current doesn’t pose a threat to passengers, and modern aircraft are designed to withstand lightning and in fact are subjected to artificial lightning during testing.
Ice, however, is particularly dangerous. Hail—which shoot from the top of a thunderstorm—can cause structural damage to aircraft. Jet engines that ingest large quantities of ice crystals can flame out, though they usually can be restarted by the pilot. A factor in the June 2009 crash of Air France 447 was that ice crystals blocked the Airbus A330’s pitot tubes, which measure airspeed. That pushed the plane’s computer to revert from autopilot to manual control, and the pilots failed to respond correctly. The plane, which was stalled and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 288 passengers and crew.
For all these reasons, thunderstorms are “just nasty, nasty creatures. And you don’t mess with them,” says Michael G. Fortune, a retired military and commercial pilot who now works as an expert witness. “You stay as far away from them as you possibly can.”
Above and Around
Fortunately, modern weather and radar equipment is quite good at spotting thunderstorms. In the US, the FAA tracks storms six to eight hours in advance, and assigns routes to avoid them. In the air, planes can see heavy precipitation from more than 100 miles out, using radar.
Avoiding storms typically means flying around them, since they can reach up to 60,000 feet, far above the ceiling of a commercial jet. There’s also clear air turbulence, which can extend quite high over the top of a storm and cannot be detected by radar (which sees precipitation). Still, planes do occasionally fly over storms, Carmichael says. Each airline has its own rules and formulas for how far its planes stay from bad weather, and pilots can decide to go above it instead of around. That can save time and money (it’s a more direct route) and avoid confusion, since airspace can get crowded and rerouting everyone can get tricky.
Until we have more information about the fate of Flight QZ8501, we can’t speculate as to what may have happened to it. Shortly before disappearing, the crew asked to climb from a cursing altitude of 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet before disappearing from radar, a standard move for avoiding turbulence. But if it ran into a thunderstorm, or didn’t get far enough from the hazardous weather, that could be a key factor in what went wrong.
Airbus has delivered the first of its A350 long-range jetliners to Qatar Airways. The new family of jets, the largest twin-engine planes in the Airbus stable, seat on average 315 in the first A350-900 version and 369 passengers in the larger A350-1000. Airbus designed the jets to compete with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and 777 long-distance planes which can carry 224 to more than 400 passengers. Here are five things to know about the A350:
1 LONG HAUL
The A350 will be able to fly as far as 7,750 nautical miles. For Qatar Airways, the lead customer for the jet, it means it can fly the plane almost anywhere in the world non-stop, except for New Zealand and remote locations in the Asia Pacific region. In a first, Airbus also has got approval to fly 370 minutes from the nearest divert field–an airfield designated for emergency landings–allowing more direct routes over water.
Airbus division CEO Fabrice Brégier, left, with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker
2 SHAPE SHIFTER
The A350 is designed more by customers than Airbus. Airbus developed the new plane having first thought its existing A330 long-range jet would compete with Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. The Dreamliner proved so popular with airlines that Airbus rethought its strategy and developed the A350. The initial design, approved by the company a decade ago, was found lacking. It was scrapped. Two years later Airbus unveiled an extra wide body, or XWB, version with a larger fuselage and improved performance.
An Airbus factory.
3 LATE ON ARRIVAL
Airlines have got used to late deliveries of new jets. Airbus struggled with its A380 super jumbo. Boeing encountered multiple problems building the 787 Dreamliner. The A350 has not been immune. Service entry, initially planned for last year, was pushed out to 2014 three years ago and then to the end of this year in mid-2012. The program has since remained on plan.
An Airbus A380.
4 A $15 BILLION AIRBUS
Airbus will have spent about $15 billion to develop the A350. That’s the staggering cost for five test planes, almost 3,000 hours of flight trials, and two full-sized ground jets used only for ground trials. One jet was frozen to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit to check its systems could power up in the extreme cold.
An A350 in Qatar Airways colors.
5 KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Airbus made changes in the way the A350 was built to minimize disruptions. Out went a wider range of bespoke interiors which it had offered A380 customers as did lithium-ion batteries which were linked to onboard fires on the Boeing 787. Airbus yanked a similar design and reverted to an earlier version.
The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 is the third aviation disaster this year to strike a region where air traffic has grown spectacularly to become the world’s biggest market, posing new challenges to safety regulators, airlines and governments.
The Airbus A320, which vanished from radar early Sunday in storm clouds en route to Singapore from the Indonesian city of Surabaya, was discovered Tuesday in the waters off the island of Borneo.
With little information to go on, many experts say it is too early to know what caused the crash, though investigators suspect inclement weather played a role.
Over the past five years, the number of passengers carried annually in the Asia-Pacific region has jumped by two-thirds to more than one billion, surpassing Europe and North America and accounting for 33% of the global total in 2013.
But since 2010, Asian carriers have been involved in four of the five events with the most fatalities, according to the independent Aviation Safety Network. Recent events include a 2010 crash by an Air India Express plane that overran the runway in Mangalore, killing 158 people, and the still-unsolved disappearance in March of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which veered thousands of miles off course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The list also includes the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July, in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The concerns go beyond high-profile disasters. The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, the leading regional trade group for 16 international carriers, said last month that while airlines continue to invest heavily in new, fuel-efficient planes, “there is increasing concern about the need for corresponding long-term investments in related aviation infrastructure, including airport terminals, runways and air-navigation services.”
The Kuala Lumpur-based group, while noting that its members are optimistic about long-term prospects, also said that “airlines are focused on tackling a number of major challenges” related to the Malaysia Airlines tragedies, including “procedures related to aircraft tracking and governing flights over conflict zones.”
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration seven years ago downgraded Indonesia’s air-safety oversight system, effectively barring Indonesian carriers from increasing flights to and from the U.S. European Union officials in 2007 placed all Indonesian carriers on a blacklist that blocked them from flying to the EU, though some bans were later lifted.
Asia isn’t alone in struggling with the challenges of fast growth in air travel. Latin America and Africa also have had a spate of deadly accidents over the past decade. Prior to this year, Asia’s share of accidents was roughly the same as its share of global scheduled commercial traffic world-wide, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The flight boom in Asia also has brought many benefits. Much of the growth has come from low-cost carriers that sprang up in the past decade or so, attracting consumers who hadn’t previously been able to afford air travel. They include AirAsia Bhd., the Kuala Lumpur-based budget carrier with arms in Thailand, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, the operator of Flight 8501.
As airlines grow, they often start flying new aircraft models. Many safety experts say that rapid fleet expansion, combined with additional demands on training systems, are a source of potential safety problems. “Introducing new aircraft types into a fast-growing network amounts to a classic warning sign that safety margins might be eroding,” said John Cox, an industry consultant and former safety officer for the Air Line Pilots Association union in Washington.
Both Airbus Group NV and Boeing Co. , the leading builders of large jetliners, predict that Asia will continue to lead world air-travel growth. Airbus forecasts that half the new routes developed globally over the next two decades will connect with Asia, with 12% of the new routes being started within the region itself due to the growth of the budget carriers. Airbus expects the region’s fleet of 5,083 planes to reach 12,635 by 2033, with China being the largest market.
Boeing, in a report this year, said that to meet surging aviation demand, carriers in Asia will require 216,000 new pilots over the next 20 years, compared to 94,000 pilots in Europe and 88,000 in North America. Aviation consultants estimate Asia had about 50,000 pilots in 2012.
The disappearance of AirAsia Flight 8501 between Indonesia and Singapore over the weekend caps a bizarre year in aviation, marred by a series of missing planes and air disasters.
But could 2014 be the worst year in recent aviation history?
Yes and no. Depends on how you define “worst.”
In terms of crashes, 2014 has seen the lowest number in more than 80 years, the Geneva-based Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives says.
The organization counts the AirAsia disappearance as a crash, bringing this year’s number to 111.
The last time the world had 111 crashes was in 1927.
“If you consider sheer numbers of aircraft crashes, flying today is safer,” says Kane Ray, an analyst with the International Bureau of Aviation, a global aviation consulting group.
“However, there are more aircraft in the sky, so naturally the overall number may appear similar to previous decades and, in some categories of disaster, higher.”
In terms of fatalities, the numbers paint a grimmer picture. So far, aviation disasters this year have claimed 1,158 lives.
The AirAsia flight was carrying 162 people. If all of them perished, this year would have the most aviation deaths — 1,320 — since 2005, according to the organization.
Already, 2014 has put an end to a steadily improving global aviation safety record.
“Every ten years or so, we have a year that is less safe than others. Unfortunately this year was one of those,” said Ronan Hubert with the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives.
Last year, 265 people were killed in flight incidents, marking the safest year in aviation since 1945, the Aviation Safety Network said.
The Aviation Safety Network and the BAAA track their numbers differently.
The Aviation Safety Network says its figures on fatal aircraft accidents include only civil aircraft of which the basic model has been certified for carrying 14 or more passengers. The BAAA includes accidents of aircraft capable of carrying at least six passengers, besides the crew.
Another key difference: The Aviation Safety Network doesn’t include fatalities from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 because it does not count shootdowns or acts of sabotage in its safety indicator numbers.
The BAAA statistics count “any event where aircraft suffered such damage that it is not in a position to be used anymore.”
Bad year for Asia
Asia has endured a particularly brutal year.
Prior to 2014, Malaysia Airlines had an excellent safety record.
Then in March, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 aboard. Officials believe that plane is somewhere in the Indian Ocean. But, nine months later, MH370 still hasn’t been found.
In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard.
While AirAsia is based in Malaysia, the flight that disappeared Sunday was operated by AirAsia Indonesia, an affiliate with hubs in Jakarta and Surabaya.
AirAsia has a near flawless safety record, with no previous fatal accidents. But now that record has changed.
“This is my worse nightmare,” AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted as crews searched for AirAsia QZ8501.
(Two other disasters claimed dozens of lives, both in July. TransAsia Airways Flight 222 killed 48 in Taiwan. The cause of that crash is unclear.
The crash of Air Algerie Flight 5017 killed 116 people while en route from Burkina Faso to Algeria. The plane went down in Mali. The cause of that crash is also uncertain, but the plane changed flight paths due to bad weather.)
With all the advances in aviation technology, it can seem unfathomable how two planes could just fall off the map. And in the same year. And in the same region.
Even experts are befuddled.
“It’s eerie, it’s unusual or just kind of spooky that this would happen in this area, but we don’t know the facts yet,” said Peter Goelz, former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
When air disasters happen, they make big news. But on the whole, far fewer people die in plane crashes than in cars.
About 1.24 million people die each year on the world’s roads, the World Health Organization said last year.
By contrast, the deadliest year in aviation had 3,346 deaths, the BAAA said. That was in 1972.
Since then, technology has improved and airlines, insurance companies and regulators have worked to increase aviation safety levels to get closer to zero risk, said Hubert.
“Accidents are not always avoidable,” he said, but “with each accident, we learn something new and improve.”
And according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the number of commercial flight departures has grown in recent years to 30 million in 2011.
Despite the fatalities from this year, Goelz said, “that’s a relatively low rate when you compare it to the massive numbers of people who are flying today.”
The search for a missing AirAsia airliner with 162 people aboard will expand Tuesday, the Indonesian government announced.
Four additional areas will be searched, the national search-and-rescue agency said.
Seven zones were patrolled Monday, the second day of working to find AirAsia Flight QZ8501. So far, the search has been fruitless.
“Our early conjecture is that the plane is in the bottom of the sea,” said Bambang Sulistyo, the head of the search-and-rescue agency. That belief is based on the plane’s flight track and last known coordinates.
Indonesia has formally asked the United States for help in the search, a senior U.S. official said. A process is underway to determine what may be needed, the official said.
The United States had already expressed willingness to help if asked, with the Navy 7th Fleet standing ready to contribute to search efforts.
One task Indonesia is seeking help with involves technology. Indonesia has reached out to the United Kingdom, France and the United States for help with sonar devices that may be needed for an underwater search, Sulistyo said Monday.
France has dispatched two investigators to Indonesia. They are due to arrive in Jakarta on Monday, France’s Foreign Ministry said.
The missing plane is made by Airbus, a French company.
China will dispatch aircraft and ships to participate in search and rescue efforts, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday.
A Chinese navy frigate previously patrolling in the South China Sea was en route to the waters near where the plane lost contact, the ministry said on its website. The Chinese air force is also assisting with planning, the ministry said.
A C-130 plane from Singapore has been participating in the search, and the country’s military said it’s sending two more ships to the search area. Malaysia’s transportation minister said his country has deployed three vessels and three aircraft to assist in the search. And the Royal Australian Air Force said Monday that it was deploying a patrol plane to help.
Rescuers say weather was probably a factor in the plane’s disappearance.
Large waves and clouds hampered the search for the plane Sunday and Monday. But Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters his country will not give up or set a time limit for the operation.
A possible oil slick within the search zone has been discounted as not being from an airplane, Indonesian authorities told CNN. Likewise, reports of a very faint flight recorder “ping” are false, Indonesian local media reported.
There were reports of objects found in the search zone, but given that the area has a great deal of traffic along the water, authorities have said objects found won’t automatically indicate a sign of the plane.
Kalla told CNN there were “some reports from Australia” about possible objects found, but it was unclear whether they were from the plane.
AirAsia says air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 7:24 a.m. Sunday, Singapore time (6:24 a.m. in Indonesia).
The plane, flying from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, went missing as it flew over the Java Sea between the islands of Belitung and Borneo — a heavily traveled shipping channel with shallow waters — Indonesian authorities said.
Before the plane, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic controllers, one of the pilots asked to change course and fly at a higher altitude because of bad weather, officials said. Heavy thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time.
Air traffic control approved the pilot’s request to turn left but denied permission for the plane to climb to 38,000 feet from 32,000 feet, Djoko Murjatmodjo, an aviation official at the Indonesian Transport Ministry, told the national newspaper Kompas.
The increased altitude request was denied because there was another plane flying at that height, he said.
Djoko suggested that Flight 8501 ascended despite air traffic control denying it permission.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said storm clouds caused the pilot to ask for a flight plan change. But he added, “We don’t want to speculate whether weather was a factor. We really don’t know.”
Once the aircraft is found, there will be a proper investigation, Fernandes said.
Anxious wait for relatives
Several dozen anguished family members of the passengers met with airport and airline officials in a closed-door briefing Monday at the airport.
Schoolchildren among missing passengers
As they waited for news, some relatives took cell phone pictures of a flight manifest posted on a wall. The black-and-white papers showed every passenger’s name and seat number.
Others simply sat and dabbed tears from their eyes.
Oei Endang Sulsilowati and her daughter were looking for information about her brother, his wife and their two children.
“We don’t know what to do,” Sulsilowati said. “We are just waiting for news.”
“Our concern right now is for the relatives and the next of kin,” Fernandes said during a news conference in Surabaya.
Some police said authorities were seeking additional materials to help identify passengers, such as photos with closeups of teeth, DNA, or fingerprints. But police later told CNN they were not immediately seeking these materials.
East Java Police have set up a disaster victims identification area at the Surabaya airport.
Of the people on board the passenger jet, 155 are Indonesian, three are South Korean, one is British, one is French, one is Malaysian and one is Singaporean, the airline said.
Eighteen children, including one infant, are among the passengers, the carrier said. Seven of the people on board are crew members.
Business fliers looking for a healthy meal are in luck if they book a flight on Virgin America. But they might need to tote their own nutritious snacks on some other airlines, according to a new survey.
In an annual analysis of the snacks and meals offered by 13 major carriers, Virgin America came out on top for nutrition, says the survey’s author, Charles Platkin, editor of DietDetective.com
The San Francisco-based carrier earned 4.25 out of five stars. While the onboard snacks got low marks because they were either lacking in nutritional value or high in calories, Platkin says Virgin America’s meals menu had several healthy options, including an autumn veggie wrap and a salmon soy ginger salad that was a mere 390 calories.
Delta and JetBlue each earned 3.75 stars. Delta’s score improved over last year in large part because of its partnership with the nutritious food provider Luvo.
The airline has sought to “bring healthful, seasonal options to flight,” says Brian Berry, Delta’s director of onboard services. “Our Luvo partnership is an important part of making that happen.”
Platkin, who is also a distinguished lecturer at Hunter College and City University of New York School of Public Health, says the survey rankings are based on a variety of criteria including an analysis of nutrients, menu creativity and whether the airline’s offerings have improved from the previous year.
He sees a budding trend in the airline industry. “There are several airlines … that realize serving clean, tasty, healthy food is what consumers want,” Platkin says. “It’s understandable when a relatively new airline such as Virgin America (offers) healthy fare, but when an airline like Delta moves in that direction, this is the start of real movement.”
JetBlue had healthy offerings like a kale and quinoa salad and a veggie platter on cross-country flights. And the carrier was praised for making the nutritional details of its in-flight dining options available online.
Frontier, Spirit and Hawaiian Airlines were at the bottom of the survey, with Hawaiian getting the lowest ranking, just half a star. The airline stands out from many other carriers that now charge for food in the coach cabin by offering complimentary meals. But Platkin says such service can lead to passengers consuming too many calories.
Alison Croyle, a spokeswoman for Hawaiian, said, “We are proud to be the only U.S. carrier to serve complimentary meals in the main cabin on domestic flights, and we find that our guests appreciate this option.”
Platkin says that while there are generally more nutritious choices being offered in flight, healthy fare is still not universally available.
“It’s a mixed bag,” Platkin says. “Business travelers would appreciate being offered healthier choices. … For the airlines, improving the health quality of the food could potentially increase customer experience and brand loyalty.”
Airlines with the most nutritious meals and snacks
DietDetective.com says these carriers offer passengers the healthiest food options for in-flight dining:
Virgin America: 4.25 stars (out of five)
Delta Air Lines: 3.75
JetBlue Airways: 3.75
Air Canada: 3.5
Alaska Airlines: 3.5
United Airlines: 3.25
American Airlines: 2.75
US Airways: 2.75
Southwest Airlines: 2
Allegiant Air: 1.75
Frontier Airlines: 1.5
Spirit Airlines: 1
Hawaiian Airlines: .5
Much has been said about the rivalry between Airbus and Boeing and the Airbus A320 features prominently in this.
The twin-engined A320 entered service in 1988, some two decades after its single-aisle rival, Boeing’s 737.
There have been a total of 11,163 orders for the A320, with 6,331 deliveries to date and slightly less aircraft flying globally by over 300 operators.
The A320 family ranges from the smaller A318 (around 100 seats), to the upgraded A321 (around 185 to 220 passengers depending on the class configuration).
The short to medium-range A320 is the most popular version with a range of about 3,300 nautical miles or 6,150 kilometers. It has a wing span of 35.80 meters (with Sharklets), a length of 37.57 meters and a max payload of 16.6 tonnes, according to Airbus.
Budget carrier AirAsia is the largest commercial airline customer of the A320, with 184 orders and 157 deliveries of the A320.
It has an additional 291 orders of the next generation A320, the A320neo (new engine option), according to Airbus data.
The A320neo is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fans — a 20-year research-and-development gamble that brings Pratt & Whitney back into the arena as a major player in single-aisle airplane powerplants.
The A320neo first flew in September and is due to enter service in October 2015.
The aircraft involved in Sunday’s AirAsia Flight QZ8501 incident is an A320-200 operated by AirAsia Indonesia. A statement from Airbus said the plane was powered by CFM 56-5B engines and had accumulated around 23,000 flight hours in some 13,600 flights. Airbus says it will provide full assistance in the investigation into flight QZ8501.
The A320-200 can sit up to 180 passengers in a single-class configuration. The AirAsia Indonesia plane was carrying 162, including seven crew.
2014: A grim year for aviation
According to information from the Aviation Safety Network accident database, there have been 54 incidents involving the A320.
The worst in terms of fatalities was the 2007 crash of a TAM Linhas Aereas plane that killed all 187 on board, plus a further 12 people on the ground when it failed to stop and went off the runway during landing in Sao Paulo in wet conditions.
In 2009, in an incident known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a U.S. Airways A320 on the Hudson River in New York when the plane lost lost power in its engines after hitting a flock of geese. All on board survived.
Relatives of the passengers of AirAsia flight QZ8501 comfort each other at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. The AirAsia plane with 161 people on board lost contact with ground control on Sunday after taking off from a provincial city in Indonesia for Singapore, and search and rescue operations were underway.
An AirAsia Indonesia flight carrying 162 people from Indonesia to Singapore went missing Sunday, after the pilot asked for permission to change course due to weather, the airline said.
“AirAsia Indonesia regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07:24hrs this morning,” the airline said in a statement.
The flight was scheduled to land at 8:30 a.m. local time, a spokesman for Singapore’s Changi Airport said. AirAsia announced the flight’s disappearance on its Facebook page about three hours after the plane was scheduled to arrive.
The plane had 155 passengers on board, including 16 children and one infant, and two pilots and five crew members, the airline said. Most on board were Indonesian. There were three South Koreans on the plane and one each from Singapore, Britain and Malaysia.
The airline said in a statement that the pilot had asked to change course because of weather. The plane had undergone its last maintenance on Nov. 16, AirAsia Indonesia said.
“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said.
An airport official checks a map of Indonesia at the crisis center set up by local authority for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Sunday.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said it was notified 7:54 a.m., about half an hour after the jet was lost, it said in a statement.
“Search and rescue operations have been activated by the Indonesian authorities,” the agency said, adding that it has placed two C-130 planes on stand-by to help in the search. “We remain ready to provide any assistance to support the search and rescue effort.”
Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, expressed his grave concerns on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the passengers and their families,” he said.
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the disappearance of the flight and is monitoring developments, a spokesman for the White House said. The National Transportation Safety Board is also monitoring developments, but would need an invitation to assist in any investigation.
The captain of the plane had a total of 6,100 flying hours and the first officer a total of 2,275 flying hours, the airline said.
Changi Airport set up an area to provide assistance to family of passengers on the flight.
The loss of contact with the AirAsia flight comes nine months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard on March 8. It has never been found.
Malaysia’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has suffered two disasters this year – flights MH370 and MH17 – but AirAsia has never lost a plane.
Flight MH370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 passengers and crew, and MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.