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Malaysia has unveiled plans for a new airline, called flymojo, after signing a $1.5 billion deal with Bombardier for 20 new aircraft.

The new carrier would be based out of Johor Bahru in the south and Kota Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

The deal with Bombardier includes the option to buy 20 more planes, taking its value up to $2.9 billion.

Malaysia has been coping with three aviation disasters in recent months.

In the latest incident, a Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia plane crashed into the Java Sea while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore in December, killing all 162 people on board.flymojo Malaysia new airline

In July, a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over pro-Russian rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people.

That followed another plane that vanished shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March 2014. No trace of the plane has been found.

The launch of the new airline was announced at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition on March 17, with PM Najib Razak in attendance.

Aziz Kaprawi, deputy minister of transport, said the new airline would play a key role in improving air travel between the Malaysian Peninsula and other parts of the region.

“As the only airline utilizing the southern corridor as its headquarters, flymojo will transform Senai [Johor Bahru’s airport] into a key regional aviation and logistics hub – augmenting the government’s initiatives in developing Iskandar Malaysia and the southern corridor,” he said in a statement by Bombardier.

The planes ordered from Bombardier are CS100 aircraft, which seat up to 125 people and would make flymojo the first airline in the region to operate the aircraft.

Local reports said flymojo was scheduled to start operating from October this year.

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The underwater search for AirAsia flight QZ8501 which crashed into the sea on December 28 is set to begin with the arrival of specialist equipment.

A French crash investigation team will use sensitive acoustic detection devices to try locate the plane’s “black box” flight recorder.

The Airbus A320-200 was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board when it vanished.

No survivors have been found and the cause of the crash remains unknown.

Several more bodies were located on January 2, bringing the total found to 16.

One person has been identified as passenger Hayati Lutfiah Hamid – her funeral was held in Surabaya on January 1.

The plane is almost certainly at the bottom of the relatively shallow Java Sea.

Several pieces of debris have been recovered, including what is thought to be part of a wing flap.

Despite a massive five-day search the fuselage is still missing. Officials say most of the passengers could still be inside.

Locating the fuselage and the flight recorder will help answer the mystery of what happened to make the plane fall from the sky.

The head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said on January 2 that wreckage and bodies are spread over a 3-mile area of the Java Sea.

The search was now focusing on an area of 1,575 nautical square miles of the Java Sea off Borneo, he told reporters.

“Divers are already on standby at the navy ship Banda Aceh to dive on that priority area to locate the body of the plane,” he said.

“I hope we’ll get a significant result today.”

There were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew, on the plane. The majority of those on board were Indonesians.

Some investigators are reported to believe that the plane may have gone into an aerodynamic stall as the pilot climbed steeply to avoid a storm.

A source quoted by Reuters said that radar data appeared to show that the aircraft’s “unbelievably” steep climb may have been beyond the Airbus A320’s limits.

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Indonesian search teams have spotted debris and a body at sea in the hunt for missing AirAsia Flight QZ8501, officials say.

Several objects and a body were seen floating in the Java Sea off the Indonesian part of Borneo, in one of the search zones for the plane.

An Indonesian official said the debris was 95% likely to be from AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

The Airbus A320-200, carrying 162 people from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore, disappeared on December 28.

The search operation is now in its third day, with the area widened to cover 13 zones over land and sea.

During a news conference by the head of the operation, pictures of the debris were shown, including a body floating on the water.

Relatives of passengers on the plane watching the pictures were visibly shocked.

Search operation head Bambang Soelistyo said he was 95% certain the objects shown were from the plane.

All resources were now being sent to the area where the debris was found, and all objects or bodies found will be taken to Pangkalan Bun, he said, referring to a nearby town in Central Kalimantan province.

Photo AFP

Photo AFP

Bambang Soelistyo added that ships with more sophisticated technology were being deployed to check whether larger parts of the plane were submerged beneath the debris.

Indonesian civil aviation chief Djoko Murjatmodjo, quoted by AFP news agency, said “significant things” such as a passenger door and cargo door had been found.

He added that the objects had been found 100 miles south-west of Pangkalan Bun.

At least 30 ships, 15 aircraft and seven helicopters joined the operation when it resumed at 06:00 local time on Tuesday, December 30.

The operation, led by Indonesia, includes assistance from Malaysia, Singapore and Australia, with other offers of help from South Korea, Thailand, China and France. The US destroyer USS Sampson is on its way to the zone.

Earlier, Indonesian officials said they were investigating reports of smoke seen rising from an island close to Belitung island, one of the focal points of the search, though experts cautioned it could be unrelated to the missing plane.

On board the plane were 137 adult passengers, 17 children and one infant, along with two pilots and five crew.

Most were Indonesian but the passengers included one UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans.

The plane left Surabaya at 05:35 Jakarta time on December 28 and had been due to arrive in Singapore two hours later.

Safety officials say the captain had asked for permission to take the plane higher but, by the time permission was granted, communication with the plane was lost.

The plane was officially declared missing at 07:55.

AirAsia previously had an excellent safety record and there were no fatal accidents involving its aircraft.

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AirAsia flight QZ8501 is likely to be at the bottom of the sea, the head of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency has said.

Bambang Soelistyo said the hypothesis was based on the co-ordinates of the plane when contact with it was lost.

The search is continuing for the aircraft, a day after it disappeared with 162 people on board, but no trace has been found so far.

The Airbus A320-200 was on a flight to Singapore.

The pilots had requested a course change because of bad weather but did not send any distress call before the plane disappeared from radar screens.

“Based on the co-ordinates given to us and evaluation that the estimated crash position is in the sea, the hypothesis is the plane is at the bottom of the sea,” Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told a news conference in Jakarta.

As the search resumed on December 29, Indonesia air force spokesman Hadi Tjahnanto said it was being focused on an area where an oil spill had been spotted but it was not clear if it had been caused by the plane.Missing AirAsia plane

Meanwhile the Associated Press news agency quoted an Indonesian official as saying that objects had been spotted in the sea near Nangka island by an Australian search plane. Again, it was not clear if they had come from the missing aircraft.

Bambang Soelistyo said Indonesia was providing 12 ships, three helicopters and five military aircraft.

Malaysia was to deploy a C-130 plane, along with three ships, with Singapore lending a C-130 and Australia also providing help.

Indonesian officials said any ships in the area could help in the search. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla told journalists that “even fishermen” were being asked to join in.

AirAsia’s share price fell 7% in morning trading on December 29 in Kuala Lumpur.

Flight QZ8501 had left Surabaya in eastern Java at 05:35 on Sunday, December 28, and was due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30.

The pilot radioed at 06:24 local time asking permission to climb to 38,000ft (11,000m) to avoid the dense storm clouds.

Indonesian officials said the request could not be immediately approved due to traffic, but the plane disappeared from the radar screens before the pilots gave any further response.

The AirAsia Indonesia plane was delivered in 2008, has flown 13,600 times, completing 23,000 hours, and underwent its last maintenance in November.

The captain, Iriyanto, had more than 20,500 flight hours, almost 7,000 of them with AirAsia. The co-pilot is French national Remi Emmanuel Plesel.

The AirAsia group has previously had no fatal accidents involving its aircraft. The airline has set up an emergency line for family or friends of those who may be on board. The number is +622 129 850 801.

Special centers were set up at both Singapore’s Changi airport and Juanda international airport in Surabaya.

There were 155 passengers on board: 137 adults, 17 children and one infant. Most were Indonesian but also one UK national, a Malaysian, a Singaporean and three South Koreans.

Two pilots and five crew were also on board – one French, the others Indonesian.

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AirAsia flight QZ8501 with 162 people on board travelling from Indonesia to Singapore has lost contact with air traffic control.

Flight QZ8501 lost contact at 07:24AM, Malaysia-based AirAsia tweeted.

Search and rescue operations are under way.

Malaysia’s national carrier Malaysia Airlines has suffered two disasters this year – flights MH370 and MH17 – but AirAsia has never lost a plane.

Flight MH370 disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March with 239 passengers and crew, and MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.

The AirAsia flight had been due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30AM.Missing AirAsia plane December 2014

The missing jet had requested a “deviation” from the flight path due to bad weather, the company said.

There were 155 passengers on board, with 138 adults, 16 children and one infant, the company said in a statement. Also on board were two pilots and five cabin crew.

Most of those on board were Indonesian, but there were six others on board, three South Koreans, and one each from France, Malaysia and Singapore, AirAsia has said.

An official with the transport ministry, Hadi Mustofa, told local media the plane lost contact over the Java Sea, between the islands of Kalimantan and Java.

He said the plane had asked for an unusual route before it lost contact and that the weather had been cloudy.

AirAsia has set up an emergency line for family or friends of those who may be on board: +622 129 850 801.

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Virgin boss Richard Branson was the brunt of a thousand jokes on Saturday night as he donned a skirt and a full face of make-up on a flight to Malaysia.

Sir Richard Branson, 62, swapped his boxer shorts for a pair of stockings after losing a Grand Prix bet with AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes two years ago.

The billionaire – who even shaved his legs for the flight – served drinks and pledged to clean the toilets on the special flight – all while sporting the red AirAsia uniform, which included a skirt suit and crisp white shirt.

Pulling his blonde locks back into clips, Branson completed his fresh new look with a sweep of red lipstick and a fetching set of false eyelashes.

Putting on a brave face, Richard Branson finally made good on the bet that he lost two years ago – after being too busy to see it through any earlier.

Richard Branson forced to dress as a stewardess after losing Formula 1 bet with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes

Richard Branson forced to dress as a stewardess after losing Formula 1 bet with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes

“We both had Grand Prix teams and I was absolutely certain that I was going to win,” he said.

“Something went wrong. Of course the drivers of that race are no longer with us.

“I went to extreme lengths to avoid being here, but knew that one day I had to get it over with.”

The funds from the flight went to the Starlight Foundation for ill children, but as to how far Richard Branson would go for charity, he said he’d keep his famous beard.

“Have you not seen a stewardess with a beard before?” he asked before boarding the six hour flight.

Malaysian-born Tony Fernandes, who described Richard Branson as his mentor, used to work for Branson before setting up his own budget airline.

“As an AirAsia X’s flight attendant, he has to comply with our grooming standards and that includes shaving his legs, donning high heels, putting on some makeup and slipping into the AirAsia’s famous red uniform,” said the airline chief.

“He will be committed to carry out the responsibilities of a flight attendant, including offering coffee, tea and other food and beverages to guests on the special 6-hour Perth to Kuala Lumpur flight.”

Tweeting before the flight, Tony Fernandes wrote: “Anyone want a free flight up to Kuala Lumpur and be served by Richard Branson who lives in Perth. I got 2 to give.”

“I’ve done some outrageous things in my time but this will be up there with the best of them,” Richard Branson added before he boarded.

“I’ve just got to practice walking in high heels first.”

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