Indonesia,by Devparna Acharya 29 December 2014:-An Indonesian helicopter saw two oily spots in the search area for the missing AirAsia jetliner Monday, and an Australian search plane spotted objects hundreds of miles away, but it was too early to know whether either was connected to the aircraft and its 162 passengers and crew.

In any case, officials saw little reason to believe AirAsia Flight 8501 met anything but a grim fate after it disappeared from radar Sunday morning over the Java Sea.

"Based on the coordinates that we know, the evaluation would be that any estimated crash position is in the sea, and that the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Indonesia search and rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said.

The Airbus A320-200 vanished Sunday morning in airspace thick with storm clouds on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore.

After the search expanded Monday, Jakarta's Air Force base commander Rear Marshal Dwi Putranto said an Australian Orion aircraft had detected "suspicious" objects near Nangka island, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Pangkalan Bun, near central Kalimantan, or 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) from the location where the plane lost contact.

"However, we cannot be sure whether it is part of the missing AirAsia plane," Putranto said. "We are now moving in that direction, which is in cloudy conditions."

Air Force spokesman Rear Marshal Hadi Tjahnanto told MetroTV that an Indonesian helicopter spotted two oily spots in the Java Sea east of Belitung island. Unlike the Australian discovery, the oily spots were within the search area, which stretches 60 kilometers (37 miles) around the point where air-traffic controllers lost contact with the plane.

The last communication from the cockpit to air traffic control was a request by one of the pilots to increase altitude from 32,000 feet (9,754 meters) to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) because of the rough weather. Air traffic control was not able to immediately grant the request because another plane was in airspace at 34,000 feet, said Bambang Tjahjono, director of the state-owned company in charge of air-traffic control.

By the time clearance could be given, Flight 8501 had disappeared, Tjahjono said. The twin-engine, single-aisle plane, which never sent a distress signal, was last seen on radar four minutes after the last communication from the cockpit.

First Adm. Sigit Setiayana, the Naval Aviation Center commander at the Surabaya air force base, said 12 navy ships, five planes, three helicopters and a number of warships were taking part in the search, along with ships and planes from Singapore and Malaysia. The Australian Air Force also sent a search plane.

Searchers had to cope with heavy rain Sunday, but Setiayana said Monday that visibility was good. "God willing, we can find it soon," he told The Associated Press.

Sunardi, a forecaster at Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, said dense storm clouds were detected up to 13,400 meters (44,000 feet) in the area at the time.

"There could have been turbulence, lightning and vertical as well as horizontal strong winds within such clouds," said Sunardi, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

The plane had an Indonesian captain, Iryanto, who uses one name, and a French co-pilot, five cabin crew members and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant, the airline said in a statement. Among the passengers were three South Koreans, a Malaysian, a British national and his 2-year-old Singaporean daughter. The rest were Indonesians.

1.08 pm: Indonesian official says Australian planes spot objects in sea in AirAsia search area

An Indonesian official says objects have been spotted in the sea by a search plane hunting for the missing AirAsia jet.

Jakarta's Air Force base commander Rear Marshal Dwi Putranto says he was informed Monday that an Australian Orion aircraft had detected suspicious objects near Nangka island, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Pangkalan Bun, near central Kalimantan, or 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) from the location where the plane lost contact.

"However, we cannot be sure whether it is part of the missing AirAsia plane," Putranto says, "We are now moving in that direction, which is in cloudy conditions."

12.03 pm: Search area for flight QZ8501 expanded to waters off Sumatra coast

The search area for flight QZ8501 has been expanded to the entire waters around Bangka-Belitung, off the south coast of Sumatra, says a report in the Guardian.

Officials now seem to be largely operating on the premise that the flight has crashed into the sea.

Meanwhile Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the plight of Flight Qz8501 cannot be equated with Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which vanished without a trace in March.

Australia is leading the search for MH370 which was on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared off radars on March 8 with 239 people onboard.

"I think it would be a big mistake to equate what has happened here with MH370," Abbott told Sydney radio station 2GB after budget airline AirAsia said a flight carrying 162 people was missing.

"MH370, as things stand, is one of the great mysteries of our time. It doesn't appear that there's any particular mystery here.

"It's an aircraft that was flying a regular route on a regular schedule, it struck what appears to have been horrific weather, and it's down. But this is not a mystery like the MH370 disappearance and it's not an atrocity like the MH17 shooting down."

11.23 am: China offers to help search for Flight QZ8501

China has offered to send aircraft and ships to help in the international search for a missing AirAsia flight that disappeared off Indonesia over the weekend, the Foreign Ministry said.

"China has already said to Indonesia that it is willing to urgently send planes and ships to participate in search and rescue," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

Beijing "will provide other aid according to Indonesia's needs," the statement added.

Australia, Singapore and Malaysia deployed planes and ships to assist in the search as anguished relatives anxiously waited for news of their loved ones more than a day after flight QZ8501 disappeared.

China said in a statement Sunday it was "deeply concerned about the safety of the people on board" would "like to send a message of solidarity to their family members".

10.40 am: Daughter of Air Asia pilot asks him to come back in moving message on social media

Even as Indonesian search and rescue officials say they believe that flight QZ8501 is at the 'bottom of the sea', a moving message from the daughter of the Air Asia pilot to her father on social media is making the rounds.

According to a report on the Malaysian Insider:

The daughter of Captain Irianto, the pilot of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 has posted a poignant message on social networking site Path to her father, Indonesian news website kompas.com reported. Identified only as Angela, she uploaded a picture of her father and wrote: "Papa pulang. Kakak masih butuh papa. Kembalikan papaku. Papa pulang pa, papa harus ketemu." (Papa come back. I still need you. Return my papa to me. Papa come back, we have to meet.)" Angela is one of Irianto's two school-going children. His wife is not working.

9.53 am: More trouble for Air Asia? Indonesia to review Airline operations after QZ8501 disappearance

Indonesia's transport minister said Monday the government would review AirAsia's operations in the Southeast Asian country following the disappearance of a plane carrying 162 people.

"We will do a ground check as well as a review of AirAsia's operations in Indonesia to ensure that all of its activities are better in the future," Ignasius Jonan told reporters.

AirAsia, which has never suffered a fatal accident, said the missing jet last underwent maintenance on 16 November.

8.43 am: Indonesian authorities confirm crash, says the flight could be 'at the bottom of the sea'

The AirAsia plane which went missing with 162 people on board en route for Singapore is likely at the bottom of the sea, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency chief said Monday.

"Based on the coordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea," Bambang Soelistyo told a press conference. "That's the preliminary suspicion and it can develop based on the evaluation of the result of our search."

Soelistyo said Indonesia did not have "the tools", such as submersible vehicles, required to retrieve the plane from the seabed, but that it is reaching out to other countries for help if necessary.

The official also "Due to the lack of technology that we have, I have coordinated with our foreign minister so we will borrow from other countries which have offered. They are the UK, France and US," he said.


8.00 am: Cyber criminals use tragedy to spread malware

In a trend that was kicked off by the disappearance of MH370, a flight from Malaysian Airlines, cyber crooks have latched on to the recent tragedy to acquire personal information of internet users and spread malware.

According to The Hacker News, cyber criminals are working over time and luring internet users to sites that aid phishing by promising the latest information on QZ8501.

The Hacker News reports: "Our team has spotted some posts on social media claiming that the “Missing AirAsia flight QZ850 has been found and that all its passengers are safe and alive”. But once the user click on the news, the link redirects users to the malicious websites."

7.43 am: AirAsia shares plunge after QZ8501 goes missing

Hours after AirAsia's QZ8501 disappeared and remained untraceable, the company's shares plunged by 11.6 percent today morning. The plane has been missing for over a day now and hopes of finding survivors are depleting fast, given that the aircraft had enough fuel to only fly 4.5 hours.

The Strait Times reports: "Shares of the Malaysia-based budget airline fell at the start of trade on Monday, after Indonesia resumed its search for the missing jetliner QZ8501 at first light on Monday. AirAsia fell as much as 12.9 per cent to RM2.56 at 0102 GMT, its lowest point since Nov. 28. The stock has gained 21.4 per cent since the beginning of the year."

Sunu Widyatmoko, CEO of AirAsia Indonesia said about the missing aircraft yesterday, “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this incident. We are cooperating with the relevant authorities to the fullest extent to determine the cause of this incident. In the meantime, our main priority is keeping the families of our passengers and colleagues informed on the latest developments.”

“We will do everything possible to support them as the investigation continues and have already mobilized a support team to help take care of their immediate needs, including accommodation and travel arrangements. A briefing center has also been set up in Surabaya for the families," he added in a statement.

7.30 am: Search operations resumed for missing QZ8501, Australia joins search

After search operations were suspended due to bad weather and darkness at around 5.30 pm Singapore national time, they were resumed today again. The Australian air force and navy joined the search ops.

ABC News reported that that Australian Defence Force has deployed a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft to help in the search operations. ABC quoted Australian air chief Marshal Binskin as saying,"The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members."

"The flight was piloted by Captain Iriyanto, who had a total of 20,537 flying hours, according to a statement from AirAsia. More than 6,000 of Iriyanto's flying hours were on an Airbus A320. The first officer, Remi Emmanuel Plesel, had 2,275 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia, according to the airline," ABC reported.

End of updates from 28 December

4.26 pm: AirAsia plane crash reports not true: Malaysia

Malaysia's Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai dismissed claims that wreckage of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 was found, an IANS report quoted Malaysian agencies as saying on Sunday.

"I urge people to maintain calm and not listen to unverified news reports," The Star Online quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, AFP quoted Indonesian officials who said the search for the missing AirAsia flight has been halted for the day.

A report in the Reuters said, Indonesia called off until first light a search for an AirAsia plane with 162 people on board that went missing on Sunday after pilots asked to change course to avoid bad weather during a flight from Indonesia's Surabaya city to Singapore.

Unconfirmed reports emerged that the wreckage, allegedly of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, has been found in the waters off East Belitung.

"There are plenty of speculations that they have found the plane. At this point of time, it is not true. We are still looking for the plane," he said.

Indian Navy has kept three ships and one fixed-wing aircraft (Boeing P8-1) on standby to assist the search and rescue operations, according to Zee News.

1.50 pm: Twitterati reacts to news of disappearance of QZ8501 with shock

Twitter woke up to the dreadful news of QZ8501 disappearing and expressed their shock at the failure of advanced technology. Most expressed solidarity with the families of the passengers who have gone missing with the plane and also wondered if the South East Asian aviation industry is going through a serious problem. They cited the disappearance of MH370 and MH17 from the Malaysian Airlines stable.

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