Indonesian Jet CrashBad weather is more likely than a mid-air explosion to have caused the disappearance of an Indonesian passenger plane that vanished more than two weeks ago with 102 people aboard, an aviation investigator said today.
Frans Wenas, head of a government team investigating the case, said aircraft overstress or bad weather, or a combination of both, could have caused the accident.
''The aircraft may have run into an uncontrollable weather situation which got it in an unusual position,'' said Wenas, an investigator from the National Transport Safety Commission.
The airliner may have disintegrated on impact with the sea or due to underwater pressure, he added.
There had been suggestions the 17-year-old aircraft, which vanished from radar screens on New Year's Day, had exploded in mid air, but a study of pieces of the airliner found so far indicated this was probably not the case, he said.
''Looking at the pieces that we have found and where they were located, there are no indications that the plane exploded in the air,'' Wenas said by telephone, adding that the debris recovered showed no signs of burning or of an explosion.
After finding no trace of the plane for more than a week, a fisherman found the tail stabiliser of the Boeing last Tuesday snared in his nets off Lojie Beach on the west coast of Sulawesi island.
No bodies or survivors have been found.
Other small pieces of wreckage have been found in the past few days floating in the sea or washed up on beaches in the area.
Air Marshal Eddy Suyanto, the head of the search mission, said on Monday that a fuel spill in the sea spotted by a search aircraft and believed to be from the doomed jet could provide a new clue.
But the slick rescue workers had not been able to locate the spill when they tried to go to the area to get a sample, officials said.
Fragments of human hair and scalp that might come from passengers were found on Sunday and had been sent for DNA testing. The process could take two or three days.
Suyanto said previously that, considering that parts of the plane found so far were mostly small, a body was unlikely to have survived the disaster in one piece.
Indonesian navy ships assisted by a US oceanographic ship have also been trying to locate the missing plane's fuselage, which could still house the flight recorder that could provide clues to explain the disaster.
The flight recorder is set up to give off a signal for 30 days to aid detection, but it is likely to be very hard to locate in waters as deep as 1,700 metres in the area.
The plane was heading from Surabaya in East Java to Manado in northern Sulawesi when it vanished in bad weather. The plane made no distress call, although the pilot had reported concerns over crosswinds.