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Was weather to blame for AirAsia disappearance? – Part 2

December 29, 2014 at 6:40 PM EDT
Gwen Ifill interviews The Wall Street Journal’s Guarav Raghuvanshi from Singapore about the missing AirAsia jetliner, how monsoon season may factor into the disappearance and if there are similarities to Malaysia Airlines 370.

GWEN IFILL: Now back to the search for the missing AirAsia flight.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Gaurav Raghuvanshi has been covering this story from Singapore. I spoke to him a short time ago via Skype.

Gaurav Raghuvanshi, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Can you tell us what the latest is that you know?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI, The Wall Street Journal: Well, it has been more than two days and the plane is still missing.

So probably get identified as the day breaks today. As for the aircraft are not able to search. So, when the day breaks, which will happen in a couple of — in fact, a little more than an hour from now, we will see the ships and the aircraft renewing their search and trying to look for this aircraft.

GWEN IFILL: How extensive is the search at this point?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: They’re trying to look all over this — an area that is around the last known location of the aircraft.

And they said yesterday that they want to broaden the search a little bit. So they are including some parts of the islands over there to see if the aircraft actually ended up on land.

GWEN IFILL: Is weather the leading theory? I know it’s monsoon season there.

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: That’s right. Monsoon is the season.

And weather is possibly one of the factors, because we are aware that there was a little bit of a problem at the time the plane was in the area. But until the aircraft is found, everything is just a theory.

GWEN IFILL: Do we know anything about the experience of the pilot?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: Well, he had more than 20,000 hours of flight experience.

He was an Indonesian air force pilot, formerly an air force pilot. And he had more than 6,000 hours on this particular aircraft type with this airline.

GWEN IFILL: And how about the safety record of AirAsia itself?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: Well, AirAsia so far has had no safety issues. It has been a very safe airline in the last 20 years or so that it has been running. So, with AirAsia, there have been no safety issues.

GWEN IFILL: There have been obvious comparisons to the missing Malaysia jet from earlier this year, even though the routing obviously is different.

But can you tell us what is similar and what is different?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: Well, the only thing that is similar is that the aircraft has not been found.

Typically, there are — if an aircraft goes down, there are these transmitters that get triggered. And it is fairly quickly that the signals from those transmitters are picked up, so we broadly know where the aircraft is. And that seems to be the case with this particular — with this particular incident, because the signals from that transmitters — from those transmitters from the airplane have not been picked up.

GWEN IFILL: And yet other planes, apparently, went through similar airspace just before and after this plane turned up missing.

Is — anything surface yet from those other jets that tells us something, whether they also went through turbulence, whether they changed altitude, anything that would give any indication about what happened here?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: There was an Emirates aircraft that was about 20 minutes ahead of this plane.

And that plane did — did make some — some — same distress calls. It was seen on the radar track as it was moving slightly away from its course. And that’s probably because of weather.

We tried to speak to the airline. They said that the aircraft arrived on time, and they wouldn’t give us more details. But, from the radar track, it does appear that that particular aircraft also tried to avoid some weather.

GWEN IFILL: The Java Sea, where the search is concentrated, is supposed to be more shallow than the area where they were looking for the Malaysia jet.

Is that — has that raised hopes about the potential of finding any kind of wreckage?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: Well, yes, there is a lot of difference in the terrain, because the Java Sea, where the aircraft was last located, is actually reasonably shallow, like — it something like 50 meters, which is actually pretty shallow.

So that does give hope that it will be easier, the search for this aircraft will be easier.

GWEN IFILL: And how many countries are we talking about involved in this search right now?

GAURAV RAGHUVANSHI: At the moment, it is primarily Indonesia, which has been helped by aircraft and ships from Malaysia and Singapore.

There are other countries as well. The U.S. has offered and they stand ready to come into the search if required.

GWEN IFILL: Gaurav Raghuvanshi of The Wall Street Journal, thank you so much.