Indonesia AirAsia pilot reportedly disabled flight computer just before crash

February 2, 2015 4:31 pm

The captain of the AirAsia jet that crashed into the sea off
Indonesia in December was out of his seat conducting an unusual
procedure when his co-pilot apparently lost control of the plane.
By the time he returned it was too late to save the plane, two people close to the investigation told agency Reuters.

Relatives hold a picture of the Herumanto Tanus family who was on board
the Air Asia flight which crashed into the sea off Indonesia. Photo / AP

They
said that investigators were examining the Flight Augmentation Computer
(FAC) recovered from the Airbus A320, and that the captain had taken
the “very unusual” step of disabling the system.
“You can reset the FAC, but to cut all power to it is very unusual,” said an A320 pilot, who chose to remain anonymous.
“You
don’t pull the circuit breaker unless it was an absolute emergency. I
don’t know if there was one in this case, but it is very unusual.”

To do this, the captain would have had to leave his seat, and reach behind the co-pilot.
Experts
said the loss of the FAC would not directly alter the trajectory of an
aircraft but that it would remove flight “envelope protection”, which
prevents a pilot from taking a plane beyond its safety limits.
Shortly
after the pilot is believed to have disabled the FAC, Flight QZ8501
went into a sharp climb from which investigators have said it stalled or
lost lift.
“It appears he [the co-pilot] was surprised or
startled by this,” said a person close the investigation, referring to
the decision to cut power to the FAC.
“The co-pilot pulled the plane up, and by the time the captain regained the controls it was too late.”
This
contradicts reports earlier this week which claimed the co-pilot was in
control at the time of the crash, after the plane’s flight data
recorder was analysed.
AirAsia said it would not comment while
the matter was under investigation by the National Transportation Safety
Committee (NTSC) of Indonesia. Tatang Kurniadi, chief of the NTSC, told
Reuters there had been no delay in the captain resuming the controls,
but declined further comment.

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