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Jakarta Post

Co-pilot in control of crashed AirAsia flight

  • Nadya Natahadibrata and Arnaud Richard-Ferraro

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, January 30, 2015   /  09:48 am
Co-pilot in control of crashed AirAsia flight

National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said co-pilot, first officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel, was in control of AirAsia flight QZ8501 before it rapidly climbed and then stalled.

During a press conference on the preliminary report for the AirAsia crash, KNKT head investigator Mardjono Siswosuwarno said Capt. Iriyanto, an experienced former fighter pilot, was serving a monitoring role at the time of the crash.

'€œSecond in command, or the co-pilot, who sits on the right side of the cockpit, was the person flying the plane; while, the main pilot, who sits on the left side of the cockpit, was monitoring,'€ Mardjono said during a press conference on Thursday.

Co-pilot Plesel, a French national born in the Caribbean territory of Martinique, had about 2,200 flight hours over roughly three years flying for AirAsia. Iriyanto, had logged a total of 6,100 flying hours.

No cause for the crash has been determined, but officials have previously said that weather likely played a role.

Based on the data retrieved from AirAsia'€™s black box, the aircraft'€™s stall warning system turned on after it reached an altitude of 37,000 feet, a few minutes before it crashed. The stall warning usually came on when an aircraft ascended at an angle steeper than 8 degrees, Mardjono said.

Mardjono added that the flight crew possessed valid licenses and medical certificates affirming that they were in good health. He also said the plane was fit for flying and was operating with balanced weight regulations.

According to KNKT, the aircraft requested permission from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport'€™s air traffic control (ATC) to turn left to avoid a storm. The request was immediately granted. The plane turned 7 nautical miles to its left. The aircraft then asked to ascend, but the pilot did not explain why he wished to fly higher.

The Jakarta'€™s ATC approved the request, but received no reply from the pilot.

KNKT investigator Ertata Lananggalih also said the flight data recorder showed that around that time the aircraft climbed from 32,000 feet to 37,400 ft in only 30 seconds, and then it started to descend back to its prior altitude within the next 30 seconds.

At 6:20 a.m., both flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder stopped recording, he said.

Meanwhile, the French daily Le Monde reported that Plesel'€™s family had decided to sue AirAsia Indonesia. The family claimed the airline was negligent.

'€œThe family wants the enquiry to shed light on what happened. AirAsia must give responses to its culpable negligence,'€ said Eddy Arneton, lawyer of Plesel'€™s family, as quoted by Le Monde in its Jan. 27 edition.

As is typical in French law, the Paris Public Prosecutor'€™s Office opened a preliminary investigation for '€œman slaughter'€ last month after it confirmed that one of France'€™s citizens was a victim. The enquiry is managed by the French air transportation police.

Plesel left his job as an engineer for an energy company to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.

'€œAviation was his passion and he was able to make it real,'€ his sister, Renee, was quoted as saying by USA Today during a radio interview. '€œHe told me that things were going well, that he'€™d had a good Christmas. He was happy. The rains were starting, the weather was bad, it was raining a lot. He was going to work the next day.'€

AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, killing 162 passengers and crew. Currently, the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has recovered 73 bodies.

KNKT head Tatang Kurniadi said the committee planned to finish the final report of the investigation within the next seven months.

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