'Victims were still holding hands in the water': Search pilot claims he saw bodies of AirAsia passengers tragically linked together as divers prepare to retrieve wreckage of doomed jet
- Bodies of crash victims spotted floating in sea off coast of Borneo Island
- At least three bodies recovered from the water by Indonesian naval vessel
- A pilot involved in the search operation saw three bodies holding hands
- Officials have now confirmed wreckage is from AirAsia flight 8501
- Navy spokesman earlier claimed 40 bodies were retrieved from Java Sea
- But this figure has now been corrected to three by search and rescue teams
Three people killed on AirAsia flight QZ8501 were holding hands when their bodies were spotted floating in the Java sea off Indonesia, a pilot involved in the search for the missing plane has claimed.
Lieutenant Airman Tri Wobowo, who co-piloted the C130 Hercules aircraft that first saw debris of the plane on Tuesday, told Indonesian newspaper Kompas: ‘There are seven to eight people. Three [of them] again hold hands.’
Since wreckage from the plane was discovered off the coast of Borneo Island after three days of searching there have been a number of different body counts from several official sources.
Divers and ships will search for the wreckage and the all important black boxes of the doomed plane on Wednesday after officials confirmed that the bodies and debris found are from flight 8501
The fuselage may be easily found as the aircraft probably only broke up when it hit the water, aviation experts believe.
Before darkness fell in the area, search teams identified a shadow that they believe to be the plane's fuselage in the sea, which is relatively shallow at just 160 feet at its deepest point. Many of the remaining victims are thought likely to still be on board the aircraft
The Airbus A320-200 was 42 minutes into its flight from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore on Sunday when it vanished with 162 people on board.
A plastic suitcase, uninflated emergency and oxygen tank from doomed flight 8501 were displayed by rescue workers at Pangkalan Bun airport in Indonesia earlier today
Live Indonesian television news footage showed at least one corpse floating in the water earlier today
A family member of passengers onboard the missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501, reacts after seeing an unidentified floating dead body during a search and rescue (SAR) mission with Indonesian military
Rescue workers display the uninflated escape slide from flight 8501 at Pangkalan Bun airport in Indonesia
An oxygen tank from doomed AirAsia flight 8501 was found floating in the sea off the coast of Borneo island
Tragic: The flight went missing from radar at 6.18am local time - six minutes after last communication with air traffic control - while travelling from Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board. Search and rescue workers spotted a number of bodies and debris floating in the water this morning
Several pieces of red, white and black debris - including luggage, a plane door and an emergency slide - were were spotted in the Java Sea near Borneo island on Tuesday.
A 38-year-old Indonesian fisherman, Mohammed Taha, was reportedly the first person to spot any wreckage - despite the multi-million air-search for the jet.
Mr Taha spotted metal objects in the water but didn't know a plane was missing until he returned to his home in the village of Belinyu on Monday, Indonesian news website Tempo reported.
'I found a lot of debris - small and large - in the Tujuh islands,' Mr Taha said.
'The largest was four metres long and two metres wide. They were red coloured with white silver. It looked like the AirAsia colours.'
The bodies were found in the Java Sea about six miles from Flight 8501's last communications with air traffic control.
Search leader Bambang Soelistyo said: 'As the search and rescue coordinator, I can 95 per cent confirm [this is] debris and objects from the plane. The five per cent is simply because I haven't seen personally seen them.'
Indonesian President Joko Widodo also confirmed plans to visit both the crisis center in Surabaya and the suspected crash location near Pangkalan Bun.
The emergency slide from flight 8501 was taken to an Indonesia Air Force press conference earlier today
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) speaking in an Air force aircraft Hercules C-130 during the search and locate (SAL) operation for missing AirAsia flight QZ850
Indonesia's President joined search teams in the cockpit of a military plane on Wednesday
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) leaves after meeting with family members of passengers onboard the missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501, at the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya
Indonesian people pray for passengers of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 in Malang, East Java
A crew member of Indonesian Navy CN-235 airplane prays prior to the start of a search operation for the missing AirAsia flight 8501
This morning AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes said on Twitter: 'My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all. Words cannot express how sorry I am.'
Fernandes has told Indonesia's President that he believes the crash was caused solely by bad weather.
Despite the black box recorder having not yet been found, Mr Fernandes said there was 'some very unique weather conditions in the area at the time'.
He then added:'We cannot make any assumptions about what went wrong. All I can say is that the weather in south-east Asia is bad at the moment,' the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
At a press conference later in the day he added: 'This is a scar with me for the rest of my life...There is at least some closure as opposed to not knowing what's happened and holding out hope.'
There were no immediate reports of any survivors, although the presence of a life raft might raise hopes people survived the crash.
A British national, named as Chi Man Choi, according to reports of the passenger manifest in the Indonesian media, is among those on board the plane.
He is thought to have been travelling with his daughter Zoe on tickets bought on Boxing Day.
Mr Chi is believed to hold a British passport but to have lived in Singapore with his family.
Members of the Indonesian Air Force show items retrieved from the Java Sea during the recovery operation
Officials have confirmed that the bodies and debris found in the Java Sea off Indonesia are from flight 8501, with naval rescue workers (pictured) said to be 'very busy' locating and retrieving the victims
The recovery of the three bodies came as devastated relatives of AirAsia crash victims collapsed in grief and were taken to hospital after an Indonesian television station showed disturbing uncensored footage of the corpses floating in the sea.
Images shown on a news channel showed at least one body floating in the water, causing the victims' relatives - who were watching live reports at crisis-centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya - to burst into tears, with some fainting and requiring hospital treatment.
The decision to broadcast the uncensored images on live television has led to severe criticism of news channel TV One.
Grieving friends and relatives of passengers sat sobbing quietly into tissues an gazed into thin air as they took in the news and realized that the 'bodies could be their relatives.
Police officers had to be drafted in to stop press from entering the building, according to Time Magazine.
The bodies were seen from a helicopter and were taken to an Indonesian navy ship.
Navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said several victims were found while Air Force spokesman Hadi Tjahjanto said at least one body had been found.
Suitcases found floating with bodies in the Java Sea have been transported to an Indonesian military base
An Indonesian air force worker looks out of the window of an aeroplane during search and rescue operations
Indonesian Navy airmen search the waters near Bangka Island for debris from AirAsia Flight 8501
Earlier, Indonesia National Search and Rescue spokesman Yusuf Latif said an Indonesian military aircraft saw white, red and black objects, including what appeared to be a lifejacket, off the coast, about 105 miles south of Pangkalan Bun.
A massive international search effort has been launched since Flight 8501, an Airbus A320-200 with 155 passengers and seven crew aboard, disappeared from radar over the Java Sea near Belitung island.
The US, China, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand have all been involved in the search, with local fishermen helping.
The news of the sighting of the debris came within two hours of it being revealed that family members were intending to fly over the search area on Sunday so they could pray for those who were missing.
It was not immediately clear whether that charter flight will now go ahead as officials said that viewing the debris would be likely to cause great anxiety.
The items are expected to be picked up by helicopters and flown to a search and rescue co-ordination post on Belitung Island,lying between the southern tip of Sumatra Island and the south of Borneo.
A large amount of debris from the plans has been located - including a life raft, life jackets and orange tubes
A photo taken from a search and rescue aircraft over the Java Sea shows debris from AirAsia flight 8501
Indonesian search teams believe this lump of metal is a door from missing AirAsia flight 8501
THE FULL STATEMENT FROM INDONESIA AIRASIA AFTER DEBRIS WAS FOUND
Indonesia AirAsia regrets to inform that The National Search and Rescue Agency Republic of Indonesia (BASARNAS) today confirmed that the debris found earlier today is indeed from QZ8501, the flight that had lost contact with air traffic control on the morning of 28th.
'Devastated': AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has released a
statement after debris was found
The debris of the aircraft was found in the Karimata Strait around 110 nautical miles south west from Pangkalan Bun. The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC. There were 155 passengers on board, with 137 adults, 17 children and 1 infant. Also on board were 2 pilots, 4 cabin crews and one engineer.
At the present time, search and rescue operations are still in progress and further investigation of the debris found at the location is still underway. Indonesia AirAsia employees have been sent to the site and will be fully cooperating with BASARNAS, National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), and relevant authorities on the investigation.
Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer of Indonesia AirAsia said: 'We are sorry to be here today under these tragic circumstances. We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of those on board QZ8501. Our sympathies also go out to the families of our dear colleagues.'
Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia added: 'I am absolutely devastated. This is a very difficult moment for all of us at AirAsia as we await further developments of the search and rescue operations but our first priority now is the wellbeing of the family members of those onboard QZ8501.'
Indonesia AirAsia will be inviting family members to Surabaya, where a dedicated team of care providers will be assigned to each family to ensure that all of their needs are met. Counsellors, religious and spiritual personnel have also been invited to the family centre to provide any necessary services.
Further information will be released as soon as it becomes available. An emergency call centre has been established and available for families seeking information. Family members of QZ8501, please contact:
Malaysia: +60 3 21795959
Indonesia: +62 2129270811
Singapore: +65 63077688
Korea: 007 98142069940
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our passengers and colleagues on board QZ8501.
Family members are comforted by emergency workers at Juanda International airport
Relatives of missing AirAsia passengers react to live news reports of bodies being found off the coast of Borneo Island. The group were watching at a crisis-centre set up at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya
Devastated relatives (pictured) of AirAsia crash victims collapsed in grief and were taken to hospital after an Indonesian television station showed disturbing images of bodies floating in the sea
Earlier on Tuesday, search jets were dispatched to Long Island, part of the Indonesian archipelago, to investigate a smoke sighting as they hunted for the aircraft,CNN reported.
While the smoke sighting could have been one of many things, Dr Max Ruland, Director of Operations for the search and rescue mission, confirmed to CBS News that two Cessna jets had been dispatched.
The Airbus A320-200 lost contact at about 6.17am local time en route from Surabaya, in Indonesia's east Java, to Singapore after the crew requested a change of flight plan due to stormy weather.
Aviation experts have revealed veteran pilots usually avoid the area known as the 'thunderstorm factory' where AirAsia Flight 8501 went missing because of its catastrophic storms.
Strategic Aviation Solutions chairman Neil Hansford told Channel 9's Today most flights went around the area and somebody 'dropped the ball' when they made the flight plan for QZ8501.
Australia added an extra plane in its contribution to the search on Tuesday.
Two RAAF P3 Orion planes with specialist equipment are now part of the international hunt to find the aircraft. Their search is focused to the west of the island of Kalimantan, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.
The US navy also agreed to join the multi-national search operation on its third day and have reportedly sent USS Sampson to assist.
Rescue workers load body bags onto a flight to Kalimantan in Pangkal Pinang to collect the dead bodies
Live images shown on Indonesian television showed at least one corpse floating in the water, causing families of the missing to burst into tears and at least one woman to collapse in grief
Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia Flight QZ8501 react to news about the discovery of debris found floating in the search area
Indonesian search and rescue aircraft have recorded images
of debris on the Java Sea. Authorities are investigating
whether they could be pieces of missing AirAsia flight QZ8501
Objects include a plane door, an emergency slide, and what might be a life raft and life jackets
A statement from the Pentagon said Indonesia had requested their help and their assistance 'could include some air, surface and sub-surface detection capabilities'.
Day three of the search saw the operation expand to land, including the western part of West Kalimantan province, National Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo confirmed.
Dozens of planes and ships focused their search on two patches of oil spotted in Indonesian waters on Monday as a senior official warned the aircraft was likely at the 'bottom of the sea'. But the patch later emerged to be a coral reef, 9News reported.
Mr Soelistyo said an Indonesian corvette - a warship - was sent to test the spills.
It has also emerged one of the pilots on-board the missing flight had been denied a request to increase altitude to avoid storm clouds minutes before it disappeared.
In the last communication with air traffic control, six minutes before it vanished off radar, a pilot asked permission to turn left and climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet due to the adverse weather.
But the request could not immediately be granted because another plane was in the airspace at 34,000 feet, Bambang Tjahjono, director of the state-owned company in charge of air-traffic control, said.
By the time clearance could be given, Flight 8501 had disappeared, he added.
Search and rescue workers load body bags onto a flight for use at the crash scene
Stacks of body bags are seen being prepared for transportation to the crash site earlier this morning
This morning AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes said: 'My heart is filled with sadness for all the families involved in QZ 8501. On behalf of AirAsia my condolences to all'
AirAsia's fleet of short-haul jets was already being fitted with upgraded tracking devices, but the A320 jetliner had not yet been modified when it went missing, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Waters in the search area, which is roughly the size of California, are not particularly deep at between 130 feet and 160 feet.
In Singapore on Tuesday, people were beginning to make comparisons with the early days of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which lost contact in March this year and has remained missing, with aviation experts concluding that it had probably gone down in the southern Indian Ocean.
A widespread search of the South China Sea where it last made contact failed to turn up anything other than debris and oil slicks that, officially, were not linked to the aircraft.
Mr Thomas said this should not happen in an A320, so it appears as though it was related to extreme weather conditions.
'He got caught in a massive updraft or something like that. Something's gone terribly wrong,' he said.
Officers of Indonesian Search And Rescue Agency check a map at the command centre at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya. More planes will be in the air and more ships at sea in the next day searching for AirAsia Flight 8501
An Indonesia Navy search and rescue crew looks for AirAsia QZ 8501 on a Maritime Patrol Navy Aircraft above Bangka-Belitung Islands in the Java Sea
The scenes of grief at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur International Airport and in Beijing where MH370 was due to land are now being repeated among relatives and friends in Singapore and Surabaya.
At a centre set up for relatives of the passengers in Surabaya, anger was growing at the lack of information.
Referring to the search teams, Franky Chandra, who has a sibling and three friends on the AirAsia flight, said: 'We only need clear information every hour on where they are going.
'We've been here for two days but the information is unclear. That's all we need... information.'
Speculation on the cause of the plane's disappearance has centred on weather, speed and an older radar system.
Aviation experts have speculated that the flight may have encountered 'black storm cells' which caused a build-up of ice on airspeed senors known as pitot tubes.
A similar scenario was blamed for the Air France disaster when Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 while en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris.
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas spoke to several check captains and believes the pilot of QZ8501 encountered difficult weather conditions but flew too slow in his efforts to avoid it.
'The QZ8501 was flying too slow, about 100 knots which is about 160 km/h too slow. At that altitude that's exceedingly dangerous,' Mr Thomas said.
'Pilots believe that the crew, in trying to avoid the thunderstorm by climbing, somehow have found themselves flying too slow and thus induced an aerodynamic stall similar to the circumstances of the loss of Air France AF447 to crash in 2009.'
'I have a radar plot which shows him at 36,000 feet and climbing at a speed of 353 knots, which is approximately 100 knots too slow ... if the radar return is correct, he appears to be going too slow for the altitude he is flying at,' Mr Thomas said.
Aviation Safety Network posted this radar graphic on Twitter showing all the flights in the air at the time QZ8501 went missing. A request by one of the pilots to increase altitude due to stormy weather conditions was denied because another jet was in the airspace at the time, it emerged today
An Indonesian Navy soldier points to the search area for the missing AirAsia plane, on a map at the Navy Port, in Batam, Riau, Indonesia
'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 A320, while sophisticated, is not equipped with the latest radar, Mr Thomas said.
The radar used by the A320 can sometimes have problems in thunderstorms and the pilot may have been deceived by the severity of these particular ones.
The latest technology radars, which were pioneered by Qantas in 2002, can give a more complete and accurate reading of a thunderstorm, but they will not be certified for the A320 until next year.
AIRASIA BOASTED IT WOULD 'NEVER LOSE A PLANE' DAYS AFTER MH370 VANISHED WITH 239 ON BOARD
AirAsia once boasted that its well-trained pilots would never lose a plane days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared.
The budget carrier was forced into a humiliating apology and withdrew the offending article after it was published in its in-flight magazine.
The article sparked anger on social media after an AirAsia passenger posted a photograph of the text on Twitter last April.
The last paragraph read: 'Pilot training in AirAsia is continuous and very thorough. Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost.'
AirAsia Executive Chairman Kamarudin Meranun expressed 'deep regret and remorse,' saying the latest issue of 'travel 3Sixty' magazine was printed before the Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 239 people disappeared ON March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Mr Kamarudin said the article was a monthly aviation column prepared well in advance by a retired pilot, who had worked for both AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.
'This is a truly difficult time for the nation and words cannot describe how I personally feel of this incident,' Mr Kamarudin said in a statement.
'If you don't have what's called a multi-skilled radar you have to tilt the radar yourself manually, you have to look down to the base of the thunderstorm to see what the intensity of the moisture and the rain is, then you make a judgment of how bad it is.
'It's manual, so it's possible to make a mistake, it has happened,' Mr Thomas explained.
In a separate development, Earth Network, a firm that monitors weather conditions around the world, recorded a number of lightning strikes 'near the path' of the plane when it disappeared on Sunday morning, it was reported by the New York Times.
Although unlikely to have caused structural damage to the A320, lightning can affect navigation systems and flashes could temporarily disorient pilots, the paper notes.
Sudden shifts in wind direction also have the potential to force jet engines into a stall, although experts this scenario is very unlikely and point to the fact that the Airbus A320 is certified to fly up to three hours on a single engine.
AirAsia confirmed there were 155 passengers on board - including 138 adults, 16 children and one infant - and also stated there were two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board.
Nationalities of passengers and crew on board are one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one British, one French, three South Koreans and 155 Indonesians.
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 to 38,000 feet 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.
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas (above) believes the plane,
piloted by Captain Iriyanto, was flying too slowly
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.
Search efforts for the plane's wreckage resumed on Monday at first light and were focused around the area of the Java Sea near Belitung.
'UNBEARABLE' WAIT FOR BROTHER OF MISSING BRITISH PASSENGER AND TWO-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER
The brother of a British man who was travelling on the passenger jet missing off the coast of Indonesia today said the wait for news is 'unbearable' as the family prepares 'for the worst'.
Chi-Man Choi, pictured right, who is originally from Hull, Yorkshire, was flying from Indonesia to Singapore with his two-year-old daughter, Zoe, where they were expected to reunite with his wife and son.
His brother, Chi-Wai Choi, said he was comforting his elderly parents, hoping for positive news but nevertheless 'preparing them for the worst.'
'It doesn't look good at the moment. I am sure if there was anything to find then they would have found it by now.' he told The Sun. 'It is a very tricky time at the moment. We are just holding together for my parents.
'They don't know what to make of it.'
Chi-Man Choi, a University of Essex graduate, was the managing director of an energy company in Indonesia.
He purchased his plane ticket and that of his daughter on Boxing Day - according to the passenger manifest - and they were seated in the first row, in seats 1B and 1C.
Earlier, the billionaire CEO of AirAsia described missing flight QZ8501 as his 'worst nightmare' as the massive air and sea search for the plane resumed at first light on Monday.
Tony Fernandes spoke of his horror over the situation after the plane lost contact with air traffic control, a short time after the pilot asked to deviate from the flight path due to 'bad weather'.
Upon first arriving in Indonesia, Mr Fernandes gave a press conference to family and friends of those on board the plane and said the focus should be on the search and the families.
The 50-year-old built AirAsia from a small, heavily indebted company to a huge low-cost airline after buying it for just 50 cent in 2001. He later expanded into long-hail flights with the AirAsia X brand.
The fishing boats and official vessels that were sent out by Indonesia's national search and rescue authority, along with helicopters and Hercules aircraft from Singapore, set out again at sunrise on Monday morning.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered the nation's help to assist in the search on Sunday.
Despite comparisons of QZ8501 to this year's earlier Malaysia Airlines tragedies, Mr Abbott said the AirAsia flight's disappearance was a tragedy but 'This is not a mystery like the MH370 disappearance and it's not an atrocity like the MH17 shooting down'.
MH370 disappeared in March while on its way from Malaysia to China when it lost contact. The aircraft has not been seen since.
Five months later, MH17 was flying over Ukrainian airspace when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people on board the flight died.
'PAPA, PLEASE COME HOME': FAMILY'S TORMENT OVER MISSING AIRASIA PILOT WHO FLEW F-16 JETS BEFORE BECOMING COMMERCIAL CAPTAIN
The daughter of the missing AirAsia captain today made an emotional plea for her father to come home, telling him: 'I still need you'.
Captain Iriyanto disappeared in airspace thick with storm clouds between Indonesia and Singapore while piloting Flight 8501 with 162 people on board yesterday.
His picture was posted on social media by his 22-year-old daughter Angela Ranastianis with the heartbreaking message: 'Papa, please come home, I still need you. Bring back my papa.'
Cpt Iriyanto's father said the last time he saw his son was at the funeral of his other son who died of diabetes last week.
'Papa, come home, I still need you': Angela Ranastianis, the daughter of missing AirAsia pilot Iriyanto, has made an emotional appeal for her father to return safely after posting this picture with him online
Suwarto, who has only one name, told the BBC he hoped he would see his son again, but accepted it would be God's will if he didn't.
At Iryanto's house in the East Java town of Sidoarjo, neighbours, relatives and friends gathered to pray and recite the Quran to support the distraught family.
Their desperate cries were so loud, they could sometimes be heard outside where three LCD televisions had been set up to monitor search developments.
'He is a good man. That's why people here appointed him as our neighbourhood chief for the last two years,' said Bagianto Djoyonegoro, a friend and neighbour, adding that despite being busy with his job, Iryanto was always very active in the community and attentive to the needs of the people around him.
Double tragedy: Cpt Iriyanto's father, Suwarto (above) said the last time he saw his son was at the funeral of his other
son who died of diabetes last week
Cpt Iriyanto's nephew told Indonesian news outlet Detik.com his uncle, who is married with two young children, was 'a very caring person'.
He said: 'He is always helping people because he is a very caring person. If there is a sick relative who needed help and even money, my uncle would be there.
'If there are money problems in the family, he would surely help.'
Many recalled him as an experienced Air Force pilot who flew F-16 fighter jets before taking early retirement to become a commercial airline pilot.
Cpt Iriyanto was 'was one of the best graduates' at the military academy, the Adi Sucipto Air Force pilot school, in 1983, former coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Djoko Suyanto told the Jakarta Post.
'Iriyanto was known as one of the "Flight Leaders" on F-5 Tigers, the leading fighter jet in the 1980s,' said Yadi, who once served with Iriyanto in the 14th squadron.
AirAsia said the captain had more than 20,000 flying hours, of which 6,100 were with AirAisa on the Airbus 320.
AIR INDUSTRY'S DEADLIEST YEAR IN A DECADE AS TOLL RISES TO 1,212
The past 12 months have been the worst for aviation fatalities so far this decade - with the total of number of people killed if airline crashes reaching 1,050 even before the AirAsia plane vanished.
Two incidents involving Malaysia Airlines planes - one over eastern Ukraine and the other in the Indian Ocean - led to the deaths of 537 people, while an Air Algerie crash in Mali killed 116 and TransAsia Airways crash in Taiwan killed a further 49 people.
The remaining 456 fatalities were largely in incidents involving small commercial planes or private aircraft operating on behalf of companies, governments or organisations.
Despite 2014 having the highest number of fatalities so far this decade, the total number of crashes was in fact the lowest since the first commercial jet airliner took off in 1949 - totalling just 111 across the whole world over the past 12 months.
The all-time deadliest year for aviation was 1972 when a staggering 2,429 people were killed in plane crashes.
However this year's total death count of 1,212, including those presumed dead on board the missing AirAsia flight, marks a significant rise on the very low 265 fatalities in 2013 - which led to it being named the safest year in aviation since the end of the Second World War.
Mr Abbott was speaking on Macquarie Radio on Monday, adding: '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 downed'.
The Australian Defence Force deployed a RAAF AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft to assist on Monday.
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin said the aircraft had 'a well-proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors'.
The pilot of the AirAsia plane has been named as Captain Iriyanto, while the co-pilot is believed to be Frenchman Remi Emmanual Plesel. A picture of the pilot has been posted on social media by his daughter Angela Ranastianis.
Cpt Iriyanto's nephew told Indonesian news outlet Detik.com his uncle, who is married with two young children, was 'a very caring person'.
'He is always helping people because he is a very caring person. If there is a sick relative who needed help and even money, my uncle would be there,' the relative said.
'If there are money problems in the family, he would surely help.
A family including a groom-to-be and his parents and brother were reportedly among those onboard.
Fox News reported Alain Oktavianus Siaun and his family were intending to enjoy one last holiday together before he married.
His fiancee Louise Sidharta told The Star in Malaysia she was trying to stay positive.
Indonesian AirAsia stewardess Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, who was listed as one of the seven crew members on board missing flight QZ8501
AirAsia flight attendant Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi was
travelling on the missing AirAsia flight
Rohana, the mother of Khairunisa, points towards her daughter (left in framed picture) in a family photograph
She said: 'I heard it on the radio and immediately browsed the Internet and saw the news.
'My heart knew by then that my fiancé was on that flight.'
But Ms Sidharta said she would not give up.
'We have to stay positive and hope that they [loved ones] could be found soon,' she said.
The British passenger aboard the missing AirAsia flight was travelling with his two-year-old Singaporean daughter after other family members got an earlier flight from Indonesia, it is believed.
It is thought the British father, named as Chi Man Choi, and his daughter Zoe, were returning to Singapore and planned to reunite with the young girl's Singaporean mother, who travelled on an earlier flight from Surabaya, in Indonesia, with Zoe's older brother.
An AirAsia flight - which was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC (pictured above) - that departed Surabaya early Sunday morning was meant to land at Changi Airport
Mr Choi, who is believed to be from Hull in Yorkshire originally and who graduated from the University of Essex, was the managing director at an energy company in Indonesia.
He purchased his plane ticket and that of his daughter's on Boxing Day - according to the passenger manifest - and they were seated in the first row, in seats 1B and 1C.
The Foreign Office was unable to formally confirm the British national's identity but confirmed a Briton was on board and next of kin had been informed.
A spokesman said: 'We are aware of an incident regarding AirAsia flight QZ8501.
'Our thoughts are with the passengers' families as they await further news.
'We have been informed by the local authorities that one British national was on board.
'Their next of kin has been informed, and we stand ready to provide consular assistance.'
A spokesman for the British Embassy in Jakarta said it was working with local authorities to establish further details.
It is believed the three South Koreans on the plane were Park Seong-beom, 37, his wife Lee Kyung-hwa, 36, and their 12-month daughter Park Yuna.
According to officials at Yeosu First Presbyterian Church, the couple had been sent to Indonesia as Christian missionaries and were travelling to Singapore to renew their visas.
According to Indonesia's Director of Air Transport, Djoko Murjatmodjo, contact with the aircraft was lost between Tanjung Pandan and Pontianak, a trading port city in west Kalimantan about 100 nautical miles south east of Tanjung Pandan.
AirAsia Indonesia announced the flight's disappearance via a statement on Facebook which said: '[It] regrets to confirm that flight QZ8501 from Surabaya to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control at 07.24hrs this morning'.
'At the present time, we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available,' it said.
'At this time, search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.'
It later issued a statement confirming it had set up emergency briefing rooms for family members of the missing passengers at both airports.
A relative looks at the list of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight at Juanda Airport in Indonesia
Sunu Widyatmoko, chief executive of AirAsia Indonesia, said: '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.
TIMELINE OF AIRASIA FLIGHT QZ8501
- 5.35AM (local time) - Departed Surabaya, Indonesia
- 6.12am - Pilot requests to change the travel height of the plane to an altitude of 38,000 feet
- 6.17am - AirAsia flight QZ8501 loses contact with Jakarta Air Traffic Control
- 6.18am - The flight disappears from radar
- 7.55am - Flight is declared missing
'We will do everything possible to support them as the investigation continues and have already mobilised a support team to help take care of their immediate needs, including accommodation and travel arrangements.'
Tatang Zaenudin, deputy of personnel at Basarnas, said that the agency was working to approve flights from Australia to aid with the huge operation to locate the plane, reported The Sun Herald.
AirAsia changed the colour of its logo from red to grey as a mark of respect to the missing plane.
The aircraft was an Airbus A320-200 with the registration number PK-AXC.
An A320 pilot writing on the aviation forum Aviation.net said the weather as the AirAsia flight headed north east was 'nasty' but he believed that it would not be enough to cause a major structural failure.
Flight attendent Oscar Desano (above right) is believed to have been on board the missing flight
'While the weather on the route looks rather nasty, I have always found that the A320 is a really solid aircraft in turbulence,' the pilot, writing from Canada, said
'I've flown it through bad winter storms, tropical thunderstorms and all sorts of combined weather and I've never felt that the aircraft was being held together on a hope and a prayer.'
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AIRASIA
- Flight QZ 8501 is operated by AirAsia Indonesia
- The company was formed in 2001 in KL, Malaysia
- Joint venture with aviation companies in Thailand, Philippines
- Impeccable safety record – no incidents since 2001
- It is a low-cost airline that flies between 22 countries
- Also travels to Australia, Japan and India
- AirAsia serves longer haul routes including Bali to Perth and Melbourne
Other crew members lost along with the pilot and co-pilot were four flight attendants are listed as Wanti Setiawati, Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, Oscar Desano and Wismoyo Ari Prambudi as well as technician Saiful Rakhmad.
On Christmas Eve, Desano wrote on Twitter: 'Merry Christmas to all my beautiful friends who celebrate it.'
He also posted a picture of himself wearing his AirAsia identification tag.
AirAsia flies mostly in the South East Asian area, its reach being as far as Sydney and the Queensland Gold Coast.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement to Fairfax Media, saying it was checking with the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian High Commissioner in Singapore to see if any of the passengers were holding an Australian passport.
'Those concerned about the welfare of their Australian family and friends who were known to be travelling on this flight should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (or +61 2 6261 3305 if calling from overseas),' the statement read.
The United States also offered to help with the search.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: 'Our hearts and hopes are with the passengers and families of AirAsia QZ8501.'
AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft.
The number for the hotline is +622129850801.
LIST OF PASSENGERS ON BOARD DOOMED AIRASIA FLIGHT 8501
1. Viona Florensia Abraham.
2. Siau Alain Octavianus
3. Sri Ratri Andriani
4. Sri Vincencia Andrijany
5. Sharon Michelle Ang
6. Steven Michael Ng
7. Ong Anelina
8. Lindawati Anggara
9. Monica Anggraini
10. Linda Anggreni
11. Santiago Jasmine Rose Ann
12. Jayden Cruz Ardhi
13. Reggy Ardhi
14. Yuni Astutik
15. Thirza Aurelia
16. Djarot Biantoro
17. Kevin Biantoro
18. Gani Chandra
19. Chi Man Choi
20. Zoe Man Suen Choi
21. Marianne Claudia Ardhi
22. Michelle Clemency Ardhi
23. The Darmaji
24. Inda Djani
25. Kaylee C. Djomi
26. Martinus Djomi
27. Angeline Esther Emmanuel
29. Musaba Evientri Wahab
30. Edward Febriantus
31. Joe Jeng Fei
32. Andrian Fernando
33. Susilo Gani
34. Justin Giovanni
35. Nico Giovanni
36. Feilensia Sularmo Go
37. David Gunawan
38. Jie Charly Gunawan
39. Jie Stephanie Gunawan
40. Jie Steven Gunawan
41. Jie Stevie Gunawan
42. Kayla Audrey Gunawan
43. Kenneth Mathew Gunawan
44. Hendra Gunawan Syawal
45. Hindarto Halim
46. Hayati Luftiah Hamid
47. Finna Handayani
48. Rony Handoyo
49. Sukiatma Haripin
50. Prawira Harja Subagio
51. David Hartono
52. Caroline Harwon Lioe
53. Juliana Ho
54. Christanto Leoma Hutama
55. Jo Indri
56. Monita Wahyuni Jauw
58. Ang Mie Jong
59. Shiane Josal
60. Kosuma Chandra Kho
61. Vera Chandra Kho
62. Sesha Aldi Krisputra
63. Felicia Sabrina Krisputri
65. Nelson Kusuma
66. Wirantono Kusumo
67. Kyung Hwa Lee
68. Indahju Liangsih
69. Fransisca Lanny Winat Liem
70. Ekawati Ligo
71. Yan Koen Lim
72. Susandhini Limam
73. Juanita Limantara
74. Grayson Herbert Linaksita
75. Kathleen Fulvia Linaksita
76. Tony Linaksita
77. Sri Linggarwati
80. Abdullah Muttaqin
81. Andrian Noventus
82. Donna Indah Nurwatie
83. Lanny Octavani
84. Jimmy Sentosa Winata Oei
85. Denny Octavianus
86. Sherlly Ong
87. Soamik Saeran Pai
88. Seongbeom Park
89. Gusti Ayu Putriyan Permata
90. Andri Wijaya Poo
91. Christien Aulia Pornomo
92. Feyny Yufina Pornomo
93. Ruth Natalia M Puspitasari
94. Gusti Ayu Madi Keish Putri
95. Mulyahadikusuma Ranudiwjojo
96. Ria Ratna Sari
97. Siri Romlah
98. Fandi Santoso
99. Karina Santoso
100. Nikolas Theo Santoso
101. Lia Sari
102. Yonathan Sebastian
103. Samuel Joyo Sentoso
104. Mawin Sholeh
105. Soetikno Sia
106. Gusti Made Bobi Sidartha
107. Chung Hei Sii
108. Elbert Soesilo
109. Aris Soetanto
110. Lina Soetanto
111. Cindy Clarissa Soetjipto
112. Kevin Alexander Soetjipto
113. Rudy Soetjipto
114. Yenni Soewono
115. Budi Su
116. Kartika Dewi Sukianto
118. Hanny Suryaatmaja
119. Djoko Suseno
120. Naura Kanita Rosada Suseno
122. Hermanto Tanus
123. The Meiji Thejakusuma
124. Hendra Theodorus
125. Raynaldi Theodorus
126. Winoya Theodorus
127. Suriani Usin
128. Soesilo Utomo
129. Eny Wahyuni
130. Oktaria Wen
131. Bhima Aly Wicaksana
132. Andreas Widjaja
133. Djoko Satryo Tanoe Widjaja
134. Eko Widjaja
135. Florentina Maria Widodo
136. Nanang Priyo Widodo
137. Anna Widyawati
138. Alfred Widjaya
139. Bob Hartanto Wijaya
140. Marilyn Wijaya
141. William Wijaya
142. Indar Prasetyo Wijaya Kwee
143. Boby Hartanto Winata
144. Ingrid Jessica Winata
145. Natalina Wuntarjo
146. Indri Yani
147. Jou Yongki
148. Elisabeth Youvita
149. Brian Youvito
150. Jou Christine Yuanita
151. Albertus Eka Surya Yulianto
152. Indra Yulianto
153. Stephanie Yulianto
154. Indah Yuni
The information comes from the list on display at the AirAsia Crisis Center post at Juanda airport.
It does not include members of the AirAsia crew on board the plane.