COSTA MESA ( — An aviation expert weighed in Monday on the disappearance of an AirAsia jetliner, likening a large thunderstorm cell to having the “destructive power of an atomic bomb.”

Captain Ross Aimer (Ret.) says he isn’t surprised AirAsia Flight 8501 asked for permission to climb altitude when the plane encountered bad weather over Indonesia’s Java Sea.

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“They have thunderstorms in those areas that could go up to 50-60,000-feet,” he said.

But Aimer says climbing in a severe thunderstorm presents its own risks.

“And it becomes actually more dangerous to be up there if you’re trying to escape some bad weather,” he explained.

The request by the pilot to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet was made at 6:12 a.m. but was denied due to traffic, according to an Indonesian transport official.

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About 12 minutes later, at 6:24 a.m., AirAsia said radar contact was lost and the Singapore-bound flight with 162 passengers and crew on board disappeared less than one hour into the flight.

Aimer wonders why electronic location devices on the jetliner have not led officials to the plane’s location.

“My question to Boeing and Airbus is, ‘What is going with these systems? Why are they failing,'” he said. “They’re supposed to, on impact, immediately become alive and start sending signals.”

Many now question if the same could happen on a traditional carrier locally in rough weather.

Aimer says, “Not likely,” adding, “We have obviously better controllers, more sophisticated equipment.”

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Meanwhile, late Monday, multiple news organizations reported that searchers have spotted debris that may be a plane door and emergency slide. It remains unknown whether the debris, which was reportedly seen 100 miles off the coast of Borneo island, is linked to the plane.