AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Missing Near Southeast Asia

Pilot requested to divert flight, increase altitude because of weather conditions before losing contact with air traffic control, say officials.
7:34 | 12/28/14

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Transcript for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 Missing Near Southeast Asia
disappearance breaking overnight of Malaysia air flight. It disappeared in the same part of the world where flight 320 disappeared several months ago. Air Asia 8501 was flying from surabaya to Singapore when it disappeared from radar. Air Asia based in Malaysia. The final communication from the pilot came at 6:12 A.M. When the pilot asked to turn left and climb to 38,000 feet to, quote, avoid clouds. There were 168 people on board. Their families await word. There's a massive search and rescue effort under way right now. David Kerley kicks off our coverage. Reporter: Darkness is coming to the area where crews are looking for any sign of this aircraft. This is the air Asia airbus 320 that has disappeared from radar and is missing this morning. Search crews spent the day looking for any sign of the aircraft which was flying through strong weather early Saturday morning. Air Asia, a low cast carrier serving the area, said in a statement, quote, at the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all partied informed as more information comes available. The majority on board were Indonesians. Flight 8501 took off from surabaya headed for Singapore. It ran into weather, severe thunderstorms, turbulence, with the pilot asking to turn left around some clouds and to significantly increase his altitude from from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet, the last time the jet communicated with controllers. At least two aircraft were used by the civil aviation authority to search during the daylight hours. Air Asia says it is cooperating fully. The 6-year-old jet has a good safety record, as does the carrier. Already air Asia is running an emergency call center for family and friends. Stark contrast to the after math of Malaysia flight 370 in what could be one of the deadliest years in aviation. Now nine months ago mh 370 still missing. This morning 161 possibly lost. President Obama has been briefed and is monitoring the situation while families cling to hope that somehow this aircraft made it to the ground safely. With the loss of daylight, it will be a long, agonizing night for those families. The air Asia magnate, a Malaysian who owns part of this airline is on his way to Indonesia at this hour to try and comfort those families. Dan? Not much he can say at this point, I'm sure. Thank you. As David reported, there were thunderstorms in that area and rob Marciano is tracking that. What can you tell us? You don't have to be an expert to look at this picture and know that that area is engulfed in cloud coverage. Some of these thunderstorms can reach over 30 and 40,000 feet, so above where an airplane would be able to fly so trying to go over these thunderstorms may be a feeble attempt. Turbulence in and around these clouds. They were probably enduring some of that as they went over the java sea. Indonesia not known for having a great radar system on the ground but because they were over water the pilots used the on board radar to try to avoid some of that nasty weather. This zone goes around the globe and fluctuates depending on the time of year. It is a difficult area of the globe to fly over, and so there's just really no way of avoiding this when you're a pilot trying to go from the south to the north. We do know of at least one face of a plane going down in this zone that you're describing. Can you tell us about that? That happened in the atlantic but this zone goes all the way around the globe. In 2009, the air France flight that was going from Brazil, they got into rough weather as they tried to go through this intertropical convergence zone and it was pilot error that caused that plane to stall and go down. That was a larger airbus, this one is a smaller one, not sure that has anything to do with it. There was rough weather in this area. Rob, we'll check back with you in a little bit. Let's bring in our aviation effort, colonel Steven ganyard. Are modern planes built to withstand this weather? They are. Paula. Obviously weather is something that the investigators are looking at, but this is a good airplane designed to go through weather. These pilots work in these conditions all the time. This is their back yard. Again, it's baffling. Maybe weather played a part but there are lots of questions here this morning. So many questions and I think the big one that's on all of our minds, how is it that in 2014 we are now talking about the second plane of this year simply vanishing from radar? Dan, it's disheartening. After Malaysian 370 where we said we've got to find a way to be able to keep track of airlines, there was international discussion but no consensus and nothing has essentially changed since mh 370 disappeared. It shouldn't happen in this day and age. I want to talk about the search and rescue operation that's ongoing. There are the odds of actually finding this plane and any survivors? I think we've got pretty good radar data of where we think it at least disappeared. I've got questions about why did it just disappear at 32,000 feet? If the airplane lost control there should be some hits but to just disappear, it's baffling. This is a broad part of the java sea. To get rescue crews out there is not easy. The good thing is the java sea is fairly shallow so I think we'll be able to find the wreckage, find the black box and understand what went on. Those efforts are happening right now. What do we know about air Asia specifically and their specifically history? No red flags there, Dan. It's a startup airline but it's been around for a good ten years or so. It's a low cost carrier but nothing to suggest that there's anything in their safety record. The 320 is a good airplane. It's baffling. Something that we don't see now will probably come up as the proximate cause. Steve ganyard, thank you for weighing in on the breaking news and a reminder, we will continue to cover this story all day. You can get updates on abcnews.com and a full wrap-up this evening on world news tonight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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