AirAsia flight QZ8501: AirAsia boss says latest flight incident 'not stalled engine'

AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes waits prior to attending a press conference last week concerning missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 at the crisis-centre set up at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya. -- PHOT
AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes waits prior to attending a press conference last week concerning missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 at the crisis-centre set up at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya. -- PHOTO: AFP

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AFP) - AirAsia downplayed on Sunday an incident that saw one of its planes turned back before takeoff in Indonesia, a week after another of its jets crashed into the Java Sea with 162 on board.

Indonesia AirAsia flight 7633 was taxiing in preparation for takeoff on Saturday at Surabaya airport - where last week's doomed flight also took off - when a power unit used to start the plane shut down, an airline official said.

As a result, the pilot turned back to the gate, Raden Achmad Sadikin, director of safety and security at Indonesia AirAsia, told reporters.

Local media in Indonesia and Malaysia had reported the Bandung-bound plane's engine had cut out after emitting a loud bang that terrified passengers, but AirAsia insisted that it was a minor incident.

"It's not that the engine failed. The plane wanted to take off but the APU (auxiliary power unit), which is the equipment that helped to start the engine, suddenly shut down," Sadikin said.

The plane later landed safely at its destination in West Java after undergoing a check, Indonesia AirAsia chief executive Sunu Widyatmoko was quoted by local media as saying.

Meanwhile, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes lashed out at the initial media reports, calling the headlines "sensational" and "silly".

"Silly headlines in Malaysia. AirAsia Indonesia aircraft did not have a stalled engine. An Apu (auxiliary power unit) which is ground power had to be restarted."

Fernandes urged staff to remain strong. "Facts will come out. As I have said we are calm, will take the hits now as our focus is families. But time will show what AirAsia is all about," he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Indonesian officials said weather was the "triggering factor" in last week's crash of AirAsia flight 8501, with icing likely causing engine damage after it flew into a storm.

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