Retired pilot Datuk Jalil Mat Dom said the weather could be violent during this time of year, The Star reported today.
He said thunderstorms in the region could be quite intense and that pilots could ask for a change in their flight plans.
“The intensity is quite big and also the area of the thunderstorm is widespread. I’m not sure how widespread the storm was, but it can affect the airways, which is why the pilot asked for a deviation,” he told the English daily.
It also quoted Jalil as saying that pilots would know of the weather conditions before they flew because they would had been briefed by the meteorological departments in the areas concerned.
The AirAsia Indonesia flight, en route from Surabaya to Singapore yesterday morning, disappeared and has not been found.
Before it went missing at 7.24am, just a little more than an hour from reaching the Changi International Airport, the pilot had asked the air traffic control 12 minutes earlier to deviate from the flight path due to bad weather.
The Star also quoted a Meteorological Department spokesman, who said the Java region had been having thunderstorms and rain since 6am. He said there was no change in the weather conditions there until noon.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Associate Prof Salehuddin Muhammad said it was right for the pilot, Captain Iriyanto, to decide to deviate from the flight plan to avoid the storm.
“A lot of things can happen to the aircraft (during a storm): turbulence, bouncing in and out of weather,” he said, citing Air France flight 447, which crashed in 2009 killing all 228 on board after its equipment gave nonsensical readings because of obstruction from ice that formed while flying through a storm.
Salehuddin told the daily that not all aircraft had the ability to climb out of storms, adding that small aircraft could ascend to certain heights and that it was up to pilots on the next course of action.