QZ8501: Truth is the first casualty

January 01, 2015

The saying in the airline industry is that the truth is the first casualty of any air crash and so it would seem for Indonesia AirAsia QZ8501.
For the loved ones and relatives left behind desperate for answers the avalanche of misinformation must be agony.

We have seen planks of wood described as plane wreckage, reports of bodies with life jackets on, bodies holding hands, 40 bodies recovered and the discovery of the actual plane at the bottom of the Java Sea. All later denied.

The problem is simple. Searches are desperate to give relatives answers and there is an army of officials and politicians all too willing to offer opinions about which they know precious little.

This situation is compounded by an army of local media that would not dare to question the credibility of the information given. If it wasn’t so tragic it would make a great comedy.

It would appear that the Indonesians who are leading this search have learnt absolutely nothing from Malaysia in its botched handling of the initial MH370 investigation where searches continued to look in the South China Sea despite clear evidence the plane wasn’t there.

In fact Malaysian authorities ignored evidence of the location on MH370 less than 24 hours after the plane disappeared.

The Indonesian authorities should immediately appoint one spokesman and ban all pilots, search staff and local officials from talking to the media to try and bring some order and respectability into the hunt for QZ8501.

They should also realise that the Java Sea is a graveyard of ships and planes from WW11 and extreme caution ought to be taken in any announcement. 

Sadly even the top officials are passing on incorrect information. Muhammad Hernanto, the head of search and rescue for Surabaya told media that sonar had found the plane but this was later denied AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes.

Mr Fernandes also denied that a body had been found with a life jacket on and said that a life jacket had been found in the water. A passenger with a life jacket on makes no sense whatsoever given what we know to be fact.


Flt QZ8501 was last recorded on radar climbing through 36,300ft – without permission – at a forward air speed of just 653km/hour, insufficient to sustain flight at that altitude and 217km/hr less than it was just moments before. The plane was about to go into a serious and tragically uncontrollable wing stall.

Why it got into the situation – weather or perhaps flight senor malfunction – we don’t know.

But what we do know was the plane disappeared off radar in a minute – no time for the pilots to put out a distress call as they battled to save the plane and certainly no time for passengers to be advised to get life jackets on.

And if the plane was tumbling into the sea at the rate suspected the G forces would have prevented anyone from doing anything.

There are even rumours of the captain performing a ditching in the sea. If that was the case there would have been plenty of time for a distress call – which would have been essential for the ultimate survival of all aboard.

It is time for the Indonesians to step back and reassess how the information delivery aspect of this search is being conducted.
They must resist the relative’s demands for instant information where there is none.

We need hard facts not false leads dressed up as facts.