MIAMI — Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee has published the Final Report on the AirAsia 8501 crash occurred on December 28, 2014, concluding that the accident was caused by a combination of improper pilot responses and poor crew coordination in response to a recurring system malfunction warning.
The Airbus A320-216 (registration PK-AXC / MSN 3648) was cruising at 32,000 feet on a scheduled flight to Singapore from the Indonesian city of Surabaya when it lost contact with air traffic control 42 minutes after takeoff. The plane wreckage and the bodies of the seven crew members and 155 passengers on board were later pulled from the Java Sea in the waters off Kalimatan, in the Indonesian jurisdiction of Borneo Island.
Investigators found that the pilot was dealing with a recurrent Rudder Travel Limiter (RTL) issue caused by four electrical interruptions. Meanwhile, the co-pilot took control of the plane, with the autopilot disengaged, in an attempt to solve the situation. This RTL issue had occurred 23 times on that specific A320 since January 2014.
According to information obtained from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, the pilot instructed the co-pilot to “pull down”, an order that was taken literally, sending the plane soaring up to 38,000 feet, at a rate of 20,000 feet per minute.
The report states that the aircraft entered into a “prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the crew to recover”. At one point the flight crew appeared to be pushing their controls in opposite directions, it added.
The circumstances described in the final report have several resemblances to the crash of Air France flight 447, an Airbus A330-200 which plunged in the Atlantic Ocean after the crew lost some flight control information, which ultimately led to a deadly high-altitude stall.
Airbus said that they received the report and was carefully studying its contents. “With safety being top priority, Airbus is fully committed to push the safety track record of our industry even further” the company stated.
“There is much to be learned here for AirAsia, the manufacturer and the aviation industry,” AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes tweeted. “We will not leave any stone unturned to make sure the industry learns from this tragic incident.”