Second-in-command Remi Plesel was flying pane before it crashed into sea
Captain Iriyanto, an experienced former military jet pilot, was ‘monitoring’
He’s thought to have taken control from Plesel when plane began to ascend
Co-pilot had 2,275 flying hours when Flight QZ8501 crashed in December
Search for victims could end within days if no more bodies were found
The co-pilot was at the controls of the doomed AirAsia flight just before it plunged into the ocean, Indonesia’s lead investigator revealed today.
The Airbus A320 vanished from radar screens in bad weather on December 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, killing all 162 people on board.
Second-in-command Remi Plesel was flying Flight QZ8501 prior to it crashing into the sea, not Captain Iriyanto – an experienced former military jet pilot – head National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC) investigator Mardjono Siswosuwarno announced today.
Cpt Iriyanto, 53, is believed to have taken over control of the aircraft from First Officer Plesel when it started to ascend and then descend sharply, officials said.
Data from the black box flight data recorder has providedthe accident probe with a ‘pretty clear picture’ of whathappened in the last moments of the AirAsia flight, butofficials offered few details.
‘The second-in-command, popularly known as the co-pilot, whousually sits to the right of the cockpit. At the time, he wasflying the plane,’ the investigator said, referring to First Officer Plesel.
‘The captain, sitting to the left, was the pilotmonitoring.’
Throughout his career as an engineer for the energy company Total, the first officer had wanted to fly, so a few years ago he quit his job and learned how to.
He got a job with AirAsia, and at the time of the accident had earned 2,275 flying hours.
His sister Renee, who last spoke to him on December 26, previously told France’s RTL radio: ‘Aviation was his passion and he was able to make it real.
‘He 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.’
The cause of AirAsia’s first fatal crash, which occurredabout 40 minutes into the flight, is still unknown.
Investigators said the cockpit voice and flight datarecorders showed that the plane had been cruising at a stablealtitude before the crash.
The aircraft was in soundcondition when it took off and all crew members were properlycertified, they said.
‘The plane was flying before the incident within the limitsof its weight and balance envelope,’ investigator Siswosuwarno said. ‘While theflight crew had valid licences and medical certificates.’
Indonesian officials previously said the aircraft climbed abruptlyfrom its cruising height and then stalled, or lost lift, beforeplunging out of control into the sea.
NTSC chief Tatang Kurniadi told the same Jakarta newsconference that Indonesia had submitted its preliminary reporton the crash to the International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO) on Wednesday, as required under global aviation rules.
The report, which has not been made public, was purelyfactual and contained no analysis, he said, adding that thefull, final report would take at least six to seven months to complete.
It was also announced that the search for dozens of victimsstill unaccounted for could end within days if no more bodieswere found.
A multinational search and recovery operation has led to the discovery of 70bodies in the Java Sea.
It was hoped more would be found following the discovery of the plane’s fuselage, but days of rough weather and poorunderwater visibility hampered navy divers’ efforts.
Cpt Iriyanto was an experienced Air Force pilot who flew F-16 fighter jets before taking early retirement to become a commercial airline pilot.
He had more than 20,000 flying hours, of which 6,100 were with AirAisa on the Airbus 320.