Storms May Hinder Search, Recovery of AirAsia Plane

Thunderstorms threaten to hinder search and recovery efforts of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 following the announcement that debris from the plane has been found.

On Tuesday, AirAsia officials confirmed that debris of the Airbus A320-200 was found in the Karimata Strait, southwest of Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia.

Six corpses were sighted, as well as wreckage such as a life jacket and an emergency exit door, stated the Associated Press.

As search and recovery efforts continue, the weather will not cooperate through at least this weekend as thunderstorms rumble daily amid the moist tropical air near the equator.

Lightning, downpours and choppy seas from the thunderstorms could force crews to suspend their work for a time.

The thunderstorms will not be associated with once-Tropical Storm Jangmi, which is located on the opposite side of the equator and tracking from the Philippines to the Malay Peninsula.

Rain from Jangmi was moving through the central Philippines Tuesday evening when AirAsia Flight Z2 272 overshot a runway at Kalibo International Airport.

Jangmi is expected to strengthen into a minimal tropical storm as it pulls away from the Philippines and crosses the South China Sea through late week.

Weakening should occur once again prior to Jangmi reaching the Malay Peninsula this weekend. Regardless of its strength, flooding downpours will accompany Jangmi onshore.

Thunderstorms were along the path of Flight QZ8501 Sunday morning, Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

"It's very active this time of year. December and January are the wettest times of the year in Indonesia," Samuhel said.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with Flight QZ8501 at 7:24 a.m. Sunday, local time, after takeoff from the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, the airline said on its Facebook page.

The aircraft was on its submitted flight plan route and the pilot asked for permission from air controllers to fly at a higher altitude due to weather, cited Indonesian officials as saying.

The plane had been flying at an altitude of 9,753 meters (32,000 feet). The pilot asked to climb to 11,582 meters (38,000 feet).

Air controllers refused the request to go to a higher altitude because of another plane at that altitude but did allow a turn to the left, an Indonesia government official told Kompas, an Indonesia newspaper.

The storms in the area were capable of producing severe turbulence, strong wind shear, frequent lightning and icing, Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. Wind shear is a rapid change in wind direction and speed over a short distance.

"It is for these reasons that pilots may request permission to deviate from their flightpath by going around or above the weather," Sosnowski said.

AirAsia stated that 162 people were aboard Sunday's Flight QZ8501. Staff Writer Mark Leberfinger contributed to the content of this story.