AirAsia Flight 8501’s pilots effectively wrestled each other at the A320 jet’s controls as they sought to fight off an electronics-system failure, said a report that recommended Airbus change its control sticks to resemble Boeing’s.
AirAsia Flight 8501’s pilots effectively wrestled each other at the controls as they sought to fight off an electronics-system failure, dooming the plane and the lives of all 162 people on board last year, Indonesian crash investigators found.
A crack in the soldering of the rudder system caused the plane to exit autopilot, then start rolling sideways and upward, according to a report released Tuesday by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. The two pilots then tried to control the aircraft in opposing ways, leading the plane to stall.
“What the captain was doing wasn’t in line with the co-pilot,” head investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said in Jakarta. “The captain pulled while the co-pilot pushed so the recovery wasn’t effective.”
Last December’s crash of the Airbus A320 drew further attention to aviation safety in Asia as it occurred months after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. AirAsia is seeking to move on from the tragedy as it braces for its slowest revenue growth in at least a dozen years.
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As a result of the pilots’ actions, the committee said it’s recommending plane maker Airbus Group to have connected cockpit control sticks similar to those in rival Boeing’s planes. Airbus said in a statement that it’s studying the report’s contents.
Investigators examined aircraft maintenance records and found 23 instances of rudder-system problem in the past 12 months, with the interval of occurrence becoming shorter in the past three months, according to the report. The investigation also found AirAsia’s post-flight maintenance not optimal, as it failed to detect the repeated defects, Utomo said.
The investigation report recommended that all pilots be trained in taking over controls during a crisis and that Airbus have mandatory recovery training for all pilots using its aircraft.
Flight 8501 was en route to Singapore from Surabaya on Dec. 28 when the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers soon after they gave permission to ascend to 34,000 feet amid bad weather.
The plane, operated by Malaysia-based AirAsia’s Indonesian affiliate, reached 38,000 feet before the plane stalled and started falling by 20,000 feet per minute, Utomo said.