Missing AirAsia flight QZ8501: Airline magazine bragged that its planes would 'never get lost'

Directors apologised for the article that appeared in April

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The Independent Online

An article in AirAsia’s in-flight magazine claimed its planes would “never get lost” earlier this year, months before the disappearance of flight QZ8501.

The airline was forced to pull the article in April after it sparked global outrage in the weeks following the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disaster.

“Pilot training in AirAsia is continuous and very thorough,” it read. “Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost. Have a safe flight!”

Passengers described the claim made in an article, which had been written by a retired pilot, as “distasteful” and “disturbing” after it circulated on social media.

Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, the AirAsia executive chairman and Publisher of the Travel 3Sixty magazine expressed his “deep regret” over the article and said the magazine had gone to print well before flight MH370 went missing on 8 March with 239 people on board.

Authorities are searching for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501

Mr Meranun added that he was “truly sorry” the issue had been released at such an “inopportune moment” and said disciplinary action would also be taken against the magazine's editorial staff.

Ships and planes from four countries are searching the ocean for any trace of AirAsia flight QZ8501 today after it disappeared from radar on Sunday.

Hopes are fading for the 162 people on board the plane, which was on its way from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore.

No wreckage has yet been found and Indonesian officials said that based on coordinates of the plane’s last position, it is most likely at the bottom of the sea.

Authorities have not put forward an explanation of QZ8501’s disappearance but confirmed that it was flying in stormy weather and the crew had requested a change in its path.

A search and rescue officer assesses a co-ordination map of Indonesia

In the cockpit's last communication with air traffic control, one of the pilots asked to turn left and climb to 38,000 feet to avoid clouds. But controllers were not able to immediately grant the request because another plane was in airspace at 34,000 feet.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, having spoken to several captains, believes that the pilot was ensnared by bad weather which caused the aircraft to stall as the crew attempted to escape the thunderstorm by climbing higher.

“The QZ8501 was flying too slow, about 100 knots which is about 160kmh too slow. At that altitude that’s exceedingly dangerous,” Mr Thomas told reporters.

“He got caught in a massive updraft or something like that. Something's gone terribly wrong,” he said.

“Essentially the plane is flying too slow to the altitude and the thin air, and the wings won't support it at that speed and you get a stall, an aerodynamic stall.”

The pilot of QZ8501, Captain Irianto, is an experienced Indonesian former fighter pilot, who had clocked 6,100 hours of flying time.

His father told the BBC he had last seen him at another son’s funeral just days before the plane’s disappearance.

“I want my son to come back alive and well but if that’s not meant to be, if god doesn’t want that, it’s in the hands of fate,” he added.