Massive search efforts that were carried out for more than two months successfully recovered 103 bodies of the total 162 victims.
"The victims relatives and I agreed to officially end the search and rescue operation at 1:45 p.m. local time today," Chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Vice Marshal F.H.B. Soelistyo said in Surabaya, East Java, on March 3.
He made the announcement after conducting a closed-door meeting with relatives of the ill-fated Malaysian planes victims.
However, they also agreed that Basarnas will conduct additional operations for seven days, starting March 9.
"We will try again only for a week. This additional operation is to respect the missing victims relatives. But after this, I will completely stop it," Soelistyo affirmed.
He had also pointed out that he would ensure that the relatives visit the site where the ill-fated airplane crashed so they can offer their prayers for the victims.
"To find all of them is impossible, as we know from our experience so far. We put in maximum efforts," he added.
The AirAsia Indonesia Airbus A320-200 lost contact with air traffic control (ATC) en route to Singapore over the Java Sea on December 28 morning, shortly after taking off from Juanda International Airport, Surabaya, East Java province.
The flight had 155 Indonesians, including the pilot, three South Koreans, a Malaysian, a Singaporean, a Briton, and a French national (the co-pilot) on board.
The plane crashed in the Java Sea near Karimata Strait, some 95 nautical miles from Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan.
Since the day of its disappearance, Indonesia launched a massive search and rescue operation, which was joined in by several foreign countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, India, Russia, France and Britain.
The joint team managed to find the planes fuselage, flight data recorder, and 103 bodies, including those of the pilot and the co-pilot. But 59 others are still missing.
Some 99 bodies have been identified and returned to their families, while the identification of four is still in progress.
The identification process is difficult because several parts of the bodies are missing, according to the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital.
The bodies are being kept at the hospitals cold storage unit and the DVI team is working hard to collect extra data, a spokesman for the East Java provincial police, Senior Commissioner Awi Setiyono, said recently.
"The team is working hard to collect extra antemortem and postmortem data, as most of the bodies are not in good condition," he noted, adding that the team was currently relying on DNA data from the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta.
In late January, the transportation ministrys National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) released 18 points of factual information in a preliminary report, which was based on the black box recordings of flight QZ8501.
Head of the KNKTs AirAsia QZ8501 Investigation Team Mardjono Siswosuwarno told the press that the release of the factual information was aimed at shedding light on the estimations and clarifying assumptions surrounding the crash.
He revealed that the second-in-command pilot, or the co-pilot, had been flying the aircraft when the accident occurred.
According to him, QZ8501 was in a suitable condition for a safe flight and in balance on board before taking off. Every crew member had the required licenses and medical certificates.
The pilot had sought permission to fly at a height of 38 thousand feet, but the ATC in Jakarta had ordered him to stay at 32 thousand feet (stand by). Later, the ATC cleared the pilot to climb to 34 thousand feet.
When the accident occurred, satellite photos showed a formation of cumulus-nimbus, with its cloud peak reaching a height of 44 thousand feet.
Furthermore, the hard work of the Basarnas, which had headed the operation and been successful in recovering most of the victims and the airplanes fuselage and black box, has been praised by Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla.
The vice president remarked that the humanitarian mission of AirAsia flight QZ8501 is a testament to the Basarnas commitment, which cannot be questioned.
He also expressed his appreciation to fishermen for helping to retrieve the bodies of the victims and pieces of aircraft debris.
All of those involved in the operation are heroes who braved extremely bad weather, mainly strong winds, sea currents, rains and high waves in the Java Sea and Karimata Strait.