Early Monday, Indonesian government officials expanded the search for a missing jetliner with 162 passengers onboard. Indonesia has officially requested America’s help in searching for the missing AirAsia flight, which disappeared on the way to Singapore, Sunday. The State department received a request Monday to help locate the plane– carrying 162 people– and passed it onto the Defense Department. The U.S. Defense Department is now reviewing steps in how to join global efforts to determine what happened to the missing flight.
The United States had already expressed willingness to help if asked, with the Navy 7th Fleet standing ready to contribute to search efforts. Indonesia is requesting help from the United Kingdom, France and the United States for sonar devices, which will be needed for a possible underwater search. France has dispatched two investigators to Indonesia. They are due to arrive in Jakarta on Monday. The missing plane is made by Airbus, a French company. China is also assisting the Indonesian government by dispatching aircraft and ships to participate in the search and rescue efforts.
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. Malaysian government officials say they have launched three vessels and aircraft to aid in the search; the Australian Air Force said they were deploying a patrol plane to help.
The Airbus 320 vanished Sunday morning in the air covered with storm clouds. It disappeared from radar after the crew asked air traffic control if they could increase altitude, possibly to avoid turbulence caused by bad weather. The request was temporarily on hold because several other commercial airliners were crowding the surrounding airspace, forcing the plane to remain at a lower altitude.
Several rescue planes spotted suspicious objects in the Java Sea, however Jakarta’s base commander Dwi Putranto could not officially rule on what the objects were from. “However, we cannot be sure whether it is part of the missing AirAsia plane.” False sightings of oil slicks, objects appearing plagued the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, earlier this year. Indonesia’s leader of search and rescue believe the flight crashed. “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.”
Fox News spoke with John Cox, a former accident investigator. Using on-board radar, flight crews can typically see a storm forming from more than 100 miles away. In such cases, pilots have plenty of time to find a way around the storm cluster or look for gaps to fly through, he said. AirAsia said the captain had more than 20,000 flying hours, of which 6,100 were with AirAsia on the Airbus 320. The first officer had 2,275 flying hours. Among the passengers were three South Koreans, a Malaysian, a British national and his 2-year-old Singaporean daughter. The rest were Indonesians, who are frequent visitors to Singapore.
The suspected crash caps an astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia in particular. Relatives are still mourning the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March with 239 people aboard, and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine, which killed all 298 passengers and crew.