Inexpert AirAsia co-pilot was likely at helm before crash, says report

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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 29): An inexperienced co-pilot may have been at the helm when AirAsia Flight 8501 did a dangerous fast climb before crashing into the Java sea, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

Quoting two sources familiar with the investigation, the American daily said Indonesian authorities were delving into what factors may have surprised or confused the first officer—who was much less experienced than the captain—and caused the nose of the Airbus A320 to point upward at an unusually steep angle while the plane’s computerised stall-protection systems either malfunctioned or were disengaged.

It is reported that the Airbus A320 lost forward airspeed during its rapid climb, stalled and then crashed into the water below.

The Journal added that after spending more than two weeks analysing the black-box recorders, investigators believe First Officer Rémi-Emmanuel Plesel, a French national, was flying the aircraft as it manoeuvred to avoid a storm cell.

Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed on December 28 less than half-way into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city, to Singapore. All 162 people on board were killed.

At least 70 bodies have been recovered from the Java sea.

Reuters reported yesterday that Indonesia’s search for the dozens of unaccounted victims could end within days if no more bodies were found.

The country’s civilian National Search and Rescue Agency was quoted as saying it would scour the sea for bodies for at least another week.

The AirAsia crash capped off a turbulent year for Southeast Asian airlines. Malaysian flag carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370 is still missing after it dropped off radar on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 on board.

Another MAS airplane, Flight MH17, was shot down on July 17 while flying over Ukrainian airspace killing all 298 on board. There were 43 Malaysians on the plane en route to Kuala Lumpur from the Dutch capital Amsterdam.