Indonesia’s ATC cleared doomed AirAsia flight, leaked transcript shows

A crewmember of Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out of the windows during a search operation for the victims and wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 over the Java Sea, Indonesia, January 5, 2015. — Reuters
A crewmember of Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out of the windows during a search operation for the victims and wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 over the Java Sea, Indonesia, January 5, 2015. — Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Air traffic control at Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport had given approval to Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 to fly to Singapore from Surabaya, a leaked transcript has shown, contradicting Indonesia’s claim the flight was unauthorised.

Indonesian news website Kompas revealed the transcript of a 20-minute Juanda ATC recording last December 28 at 5.25am local time, 10 minutes before the doomed flight carrying 162 on board departed from Juanda International Airport at 5.35am, that gave clearance to Flight QZ8501 to fly to an initial altitude of 24,000 feet.

“Wagon Air eight five zero one clear to Singapore, mike six three five level two four zero initial, RAMPY one alpha departure squawk number seven zero zero five,” said an ATC worker, according to the transcript.

Wagon Air 8501 is Flight QZ8501’s call-sign.

The conversation between Juanda ATC and the plane’s cockpit before that statement goes like this, according to Kompas:

AWQ8501: “Tower, Wagon Air eight five zero one good morning...”

Tower: “Wagon Air 8501 good mornig (sic) Juanda Tower, go ahead...”

AWQ8501: “Eight five zero one (registrasi) alpha x-ray charlie parking stand Alpha Niner (A9) destination Singapore POB (passenger on board) one six one, request push and start, wagon air eight five zero one..”

Tower: “Wagon Air eight five zero one parking stand number Alpha niner Pushback and start approved heading west runway one zero, exit sierra two..”

Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry reportedly said Saturday that AirAsia was not allowed to fly the Surabaya-Singapore route the Sunday when the plane crashed mid-flight into the Java Sea off Borneo.

The airline could only fly between the two cities on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but not Sundays, according to the Indonesian ministry.

However, Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority has contradicted Indonesia’s claim, saying the budget carrier had permission to run daily flights during the winter season under a bilateral air-services agreement.

US-based paper the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Indonesian government has ordered the suspension of the aviation officials on duty for Flight QZ8501, claiming that they had used inaccurate information to authorise the take-off slots for the AirAsia plane.

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