Crew of Indonesian Air Force during a search operation for the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 over the waters of Karimata Strait in Indonesia. (Associated Press)
The pilot of the crashed AirAsia plane may have pulled off the perfect emergency landing before it sank in the choppy waters of the Java Sea killing all the 162 people aboard, a media report said today.
Experts believe that the absence of any usual crash transmission data means the AirAsia flight QZ8501, on its way from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, could have touched down safely, though the hunt for the black boxes is on.
After leaving Indonesia early on Sunday, the Airbus A320-200 disappeared over the Java Sea during a storm but the emergency transmissions made when planes crash or are submerged in the sea were never emitted, the Mirror reported.
Flight experts now believe it is possible that experienced former airforce pilot Captain Irianto may have safely landed the plane on water -- before it was overcome by high waves and sunk to the bottom of the sea.
Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa, said: "The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) would work on impact, be that land, sea or the sides of a mountain, and my analysis is it didn't work because there was no major impact during landing."
"The pilot managed to land it on the sea's surface," the report quoted Sudibyo as saying.
Captain Irianto was cruising at a height of 32,000 feet when he requested permission to change course to avoid storms.
But although air traffic controllers gave him permission, he had to wait because of heavy air traffic and the plane vanished from radar screens minutes later.
While a mass search is still underway for the black boxes, some experts believe it may have stalled because it climbed too steeply or was travelling too slowly -- yet it remains a mystery why there was no distress signal from the pilot, the report said.
Nine bodies have since been found in the Java Sea, with some reports suggesting passengers were wearing lifejackets and holding hands.
Two of the first pieces of debris found were an emergency exit door and an inflatable slide, which could suggest the first passengers may have started to evacuate the plane.
A shadow of the plane believed to have been spotted on the seabed also shows the plane may have been largely intact.
Former Indonesia transport minister Jusman Syafii Djamal believes the discovery of the exit door means "someone had opened it", reports Channel News Asia.
The full cause of the crash will remain unclear until search and rescue workers recover the black boxes.