Officials also said they had recovered 46 bodies, some of which were still belted into their seats. Marsma Supriyadi, director of operations for Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency, said that three of the bodies had been identified: one flight attendant and two passengers.
"Many of the passengers believed to be still trapped inside the plane's fuselage could be discovered soon," the Associated Press quoted Supriyadi as saying. "God willing, we will complete this operation next week." Flight 8501 was carrying 162 people altogether.
Generally, aviation experts say the more passengers, luggage and parts of the aircraft that remain intact, the more likely the plane hit the water in one piece. That would signal problems like a mechanical error or a stall instead of a midair breakup due to an explosion or sudden depressurization.
Controversy has also arisen over whether the plane was authorized to be flying the route it was on when it crashed. Bloomberg reports:
AirAsia was only permitted to fly the Surabaya-to-Singapore route on four days of the week, not including Sunday when the crash occurred, Indonesia's Transportation Ministry said yesterday. Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority contradicted that directive today, saying the airline had been authorized to run daily flights during the winter season under a bilateral air-services accord.
If it is the case that the plane was flying an unauthorized route, "then the onus falls not only on the airline but also on the regulator," Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation research firm Endau Analytics, told Bloomberg. "Somebody clearly didn't do their job."
[Photo credit: AP Images]