Last updated: 12:08 AM ET, Wed December 02 2015

Pilot Error Blamed for Last Year’s AirAsia Tragedy

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | December 01, 2015

Pilot Error Blamed for Last Year’s AirAsia Tragedy

Investigators concluded Tuesday that the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 was caused by the pilots incorrectly responding to a computer failure, leading to the deaths of all 162 people onboard last December.

According to Alastair Jamieson of, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee found that the main flight control computer had a cracked joint that resulted in the system malfunctioning repeatedly.

The Airbus A320 began showing electronic warning messages, which prompted the captain to pull a circuit breaker to reset the computer. The plane's operating manual advises against pulling the breaker, and the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

As the crew attempted to regain control, it “rolled sharply several times, climbed too high and ultimately stalled before crashing into the Java Sea.” The whole ordeal took just under three minutes, which indicates passengers onboard knew something was terribly wrong before the eventual crash.

The report indicates that the airplane was worthy of flying and the pilots should have been able to recover from both the rolls and the stall if they had used their training. Unfortunately, the plane’s black box reveals a startling sequence of events prior to the crash.

For an unknown reason, the co-pilot was in control at the time of the emergency and the captain never retook control of the plane as is required. Instead, the captain ordered the co-pilot to “pull down,” but the order was mishandled, sending the plane upward at an even higher angle.

The captain finally grabbed his controls and tried to level the plane off, but the co-pilot’s actions canceled out the attempts. The plane eventually stalled before diving downward at 20,000 feet per minute into the water.

AirAsia Indonesia CEO Sunu Widyatmoko released a statement to, “There are many lessons to be learned for the entire aviation industry and we will continue to be dedicated on ensuring that AirAsia Indonesia's safety standards remain at the highest level in the industry.”


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