1. Co-pilot at controls when AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed: Investigator

Co-pilot at controls when AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crashed: Investigator

The French co-pilot was at the controls of an AirAsia QZ8501 plane when it crashed into the sea last month...

By: | Jakarta | Published: January 29, 2015 4:28 PM
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A part of the wing of the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 is seen in an image captured by the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) on the Singapore Navy’s MV Swift Rescue, in the Java Sea on January 14, 2015. Indonesian navy divers searched for bodies on Thursday in the fuselage of the AirAsia airliner that crashed into the sea more than two weeks ago, killing all 162 people on board. A military vessel found the fuselage on Wednesday, about 3 km (2 miles) from where the tail of the aircraft was hauled up from the bottom of the Java Sea last weekend. REUTERS

The French co-pilot was at the controls of an AirAsia plane when it crashed into the sea last month after flying through an area of towering clouds, killing all 162 people on board, investigators said today.

The announcement came as fishermen found two more bodies from the crash in waters off Sulawesi island in central Indonesia, around 1,000 kilometres from where the plane crashed, a search and rescue official said.

Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather on December 28 in the Java Sea during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. Only 72 bodies have so far been recovered.

Today, Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, which has been analysing the plane’s black boxes, said that prior to the crash, the aircraft had climbed fast in an area packed with cumulonimbus — huge clouds that pilots try to avoid.

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Crew members carry a body bag containing the body believed to be of a victim of AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 to a waiting helicopter on the deck of Indonesian Navy Ship KRI Banda Aceh, on the Java Sea, Indonesia. (AP)

They also revealed that the Airbus A320-200’s less experienced French co-pilot, Remi Plesel, was flying the plane when it went down, rather than Captain Iriyanto, a former fighter pilot who had around 20,000 hours of flying time.

“The second-in-command was the pilot flying,” chief investigator Mardjono Siswosuwarno told reporters in Jakarta, disclosing details from a preliminary report into the crash.

He said the captain sat on the left and acted as “the monitoring pilot”.

Gerry Soejatman, a Jakarta-based independent aviation analyst, said that while there was nothing unusual about the co-pilot being at the controls, the question was whether the captain took the right decision when the plane got into trouble.

“The captain has a choice whether to let the co-pilot continue flying and he does the trouble-shooting, or he takes control of the aircraft and allows the co-pilot to do the trouble-shooting,” he told AFP.

He said it would not be clear whether the pilot made the right choice until more analysis of the plane’s black boxes — the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder — had been conducted and made public.

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Singapore’s search operation to locate the debris of the crashed AirAsia plane came to end. (AP)

Investigators’ comments that the plane climbed sharply before crashing echoed those made by Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan last week.

In 30 seconds, it rose from 32,000 feet to 37,400 feet, then dipped to 32,000 feet, before descending for around three minutes when the black boxes stopped, said investigator Ertata Lananggalih.

The transport commmitee also said the cumulonimbus clouds in the area reached heights of up to 44,000 feet at the time of the crash, although they declined to say whether the plane had flown directly into them.

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