The black box from the Airbus, which was carrying 162 people from Indonesia to Singapore when it came down over the Java Sea on Sunday, has yet to be located.
The latest theory suggests experienced former military jet pilot Captain Iriyanto may have landed the plane intact after facing a huge storm head on.
‘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,’ said Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa.
‘The pilot managed to land it on the sea’s surface,’ he added.
Other crash experts have claimed the Air Asia jet rose up as fast as a fighter jet and then dropped almost vertically into the water as if being thrust down by a giant hand.
The plane behaved in ways ‘bordering on the edge of logic,’ Indonesian aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman said after examining figures leaked from the official air crash investigation team.
The news came as the first victim of the crash was identified and handed back to her family, and rescuers pulled two more bodies from the ocean, bringing the total recovered to 14.
The body of Hayati Lutfiah Hamid was identified by medical workers from surgical scars, a necklace bearing her initials, her fingerprints, and a red name badge pinned to her clothes.
Officials have yet to speculate on what caused the plane to plunge into the sea 40 minutes into a flight from Surabaya to Singapore.
Efforts by dive teams to recover the plane’s black box, which will contain vital data on how the tragedy unfolded, have been hampered by poor weather as search teams warn it could be a week before the device is located and brought to the surface.
But today Mr Soejatman said the jet climbed at a speed that would have been impossible for the pilot to have achieved – and then plunged straight down ‘like a piece of metal being thrown down.’
‘It’s really hard to comprehend…the way it goes down is bordering on the edge of logic.’
Australian aviation expert, Peter Marosszeky, from the University of NSW, told the Sydney Morning Herald that, in contrast, he was baffled by the extremely low speed of the descent – as low as 61 knots – which would suggest the plane was heading almost straight down, explaining why it has been found in water just 10km from its last point of radar contact.
Both experts are in agreement that the jet went down almost vertically – and also concluded that a freak weather pattern that placed the aircraft under extraordinary forces was to blame for its plight.
Earlier in the week, Air Asia chief executive Tony Fernandes – who vowed today to fly home with the body of 22-year-old stewardess Khairunnisada Haidar once she has been formally identified – suggested the jet had encountered ‘very unique weather.’
Mr Soejatman meanwhile remains convinced that the reason for the crash, while officially a mystery, is possibly because the aircraft was caught in a severe updraft, followed by an equally severe ground draft.
He said that leaked figures showed the plane climbed at a virtually unprecedented rate of 6000ft to 9000ft per minute and ‘you can’t do that at altitude in an Airbus 320 with pilot action.’
The most that could normally be expected, he said, would be 1000ft to 1500ft on a sustained basis, gaining 3000ft in a burst.
But then the aircraft fell at an even more incredible rate of 11,000ft a minute, with extraordinary bursts of up to 24,000ft a minute – figures higher than the Air France A330 Airbus that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 passengers after attaining baffling ascent and descent rates.
Mr Marosszeky agreed that a climb rate of at least 6000ft a minute would indicate a ‘severe weather event,’ because that rate of climb was a ‘domain for jet fighters.’
Howwever, Dudi Sudibyo, a senior editor of aviation magazine Angkasa, disagreed with that analysis, claiming that the pilot managed to land on the sea before the craft was overwhelmed.
Mr Sudibyo said that emergency locator transmitters on board the aircraft would be set to go off after automatically after a heavy impact. Because these is no evidence these devices triggered, he claims, the pane must have landed safely.
However due to the stormy conditions on the day, the craft was swamped before disappearing below the waves, The Mirror reported.
In a fascinating, yet worrying, comment earlier in the week, Mr Fernandes suggested that climate change was making weather worse and flying riskier, particularly in the tropics.
Meanwhile today Mr Fernandes promised that he would fly with the family of Flight QZ8501 and the body of stewardess Ms Khairunnisa to her home town in Palembang, Indonesia, once her body has been positively identified.
The body of one of the two stewardesses, still in her red AirAsia uniform, has been recovered.
In a Tweet today, Mr Fernandes said that ‘if our beautiful and wonderful crew (member) is identified, we will go from Surabaya to Palembang with her parents. Heartbreaking soul (destroyed).’
Ms Khairunnisa’s father, Mr Haidar Fauzie, told The Star newspaper of Malaysia that he hoped the body found in a flight attendant’s uniform was that of his daughter so that he could lay her to rest.