Asia's vastness, its many overwater flights and incomplete radar coverage make aviation there difficult, expert Heinrich Grossbongardt tells DW. But he is certain wreckage from the AirAsia flight will soon be found.
DW: How likely is it that bad weather alone can cause a passenger plane to go off the radar?
Heinrich Grossbongardt: Weather can be a contributing factor. In all weather-related accidents we have seen in the last years, weather was one factor, but there have always been many others as well.
What are some of those other factors that may have played a role in this case?
It's pure speculation at the moment, but it can be a combination of weather plus some technical issues; or weather plus some - to put it carefully - wrong decisions made by the crew. Right now anything is possible.
In the next few hours, will see communication between the aircraft and air traffic control being released, we will certainly see radar data being released and that might give a first indication as to what actually happened.
Considering flight MH370, which went missing last March in a similar area, one question that arises is are regulations different in Asia to the rest of the world? Is it a particularly difficult spot for aviation?
In Asia, we certainly have much wider areas where air traffic control is limited by the factor that there are overwater flights. If an aircraft is losing altitude, for example, at a certain point, it will become invisible for the air traffic control, simply for physical reasons - it disappears behind the horizon.
In the Western world - in Europe, or in the US - we have next to 100 percent radar coverage all over the region. So you won't find any spots where an aircraft is not visible to air traffic control radar. That is different in Asia, just because of the vastness of the region and the relatively long overwater flights, even on short-distance flights.
Weren't there any lesions that were learned from flight MH370, especially in that region, that may have been applied to aviation?
The thing which has been learned by Malaysia Airlines is that everybody is working on implementing a solution which allows aircraft tracking with the help of satellites. But in the aviation world, the Malaysia Airlines incident just happened yesterday, so to speak. Because finding a solution and implementing a solution and making sure it really works is a matter of at least two or three years. And we are just a couple of months behind Malaysian Airlines.
AirAsia flight QZ8501 went off the radar at around 2220 UTC on Saturday. Is there any likelihood any survivors will be found?
Unfortunately, when an aircraft goes missing over water, the likelihood that someone survives the crash is only very slim.
Do you think the position of wreckage of this aircraft will be located more easily than MH370?
Definitely. I think that is something which is completely different. This is, for an example an A320, which is a short-range aircraft. It doesn't have the vast range of the A330 of thousands and thousands of kilometers. This was only a short-haul flight so the aircraft would have limited amount of fuel.
And in the case of MH370, what made it so difficult and which was unprecedented, is that someone made the aircraft go off the radar by switching off certain systems. At the moment, we don't have any indication that this is a similar situation.
The weather was bad, this might be a contributing factor and I am pretty sure that in the next few days, we will find at least bits of the wreckage.
Aviation expert Heinrich Grossbongardt is the managing director of Expairtise Communications in Hamburg, Germany.