SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — The plane sought permission to climb above threatening clouds. Air traffic control couldn’t say yes immediately — there was no room. Six other commercial airliners were crowding the surrounding airspace, forcing AirAsia Flight 8501 to remain at a lower altitude.
Minutes later, the jet carrying 162 people was gone from the radar. No distress signal was issued. It is believed to have crashed into Indonesia’s Java Sea on Sunday morning, but exactly what happened — and whether the plane’s flight path played any role — won’t be determined until after the aircraft is found.
Broad aerial surveys on Monday spotted two oily patches and objects in separate locations, but it’s unknown whether any of it is related to the missing Airbus A320-200.
The plane left Surabaya, Indonesia, but vanished halfway into what should have been a two-hour hop to Singapore. Officials on Monday saw little reason to believe the flight met anything but a grim fate.
“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,” Indonesia search and rescue chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo said. Search officials did, however, plan to expand their search efforts onto land on Tuesday.