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AirAsia plane crashed after pilots turned off autopilot, say investigators

  • Plane had problems with rudder system 23 times in the 12 months prior to the crash
  • The Airbus A320 soared from 32,000 feet to 37,400 feet in 30 seconds before it stalled

Published 01/12/2015

In this file photograph taken on January 12, 2015, foreign investigators (L) examine the recovered tail of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 in Kumai. (AFP Photo/FILESSTR/AFP/Getty Images)
In this file photograph taken on January 12, 2015, foreign investigators (L) examine the recovered tail of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 in Kumai. (AFP Photo/FILESSTR/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian air force personnel carry the flight data recorder of AirAsia Flight 8501 that crashed in the Java Sea (AP)
In this file photo taken on January 12, 2015, an Indonesian worker (top C) cuts the tail of the AirAsia flight QZ8501 in Kumai, after debris from the crash was retrieved from the Java sea. (AFP Photo/FILESSTR/Getty Images)
In this file photograph taken on January 10, 2015, Indonesian search and rescue personnel pull wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501 onto the Crest Onyx ship at sea. (AFP Photo/FILESSTR/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian Soejanto Tjahjono (C), head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), holds a press conference in Jakarta on December 1, 2015, on the investigation report of AirAsia flight QZ8501 that crashed into the Java sea on December 28, 2014. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian Soejanto Tjahjono, head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), holds a plane model as he speaks to journalists in Jakarta on December 1, 2015, during a press conference on the investigation report of AirAsia flight QZ8501 that crashed into the Java sea on December 28, 2014. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

The AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java sea in December last year killing 162 people was caused by the pilots' response to a crack in the soldering on the rudder control system, Indonesian investigators have said.

After the pilots received four warning alerts, they responded by resetting the control system, which disengaged the autopilot causing them to lose control of the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) announced on Tuesday that an analysis of Flight 8501's data recorder showed that the Airbus A320 had problems with its rudder control system less than halfway into a two-hour flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore on December 28.

“Subsequent flight crew action resulted in inability to control the aircraft … causing the aircraft to depart from the normal flight envelope and enter a prolonged stall condition that was beyond the capability of the flight crew to recover,” the NTSC said in a statement.

The black box data recorder showed the plane soared from 32,000 feet to 37,400 feet in 30 seconds before it stalled.

Investigators said co-pilot Remi Plesel was at the controls in the moments before it crashed, rather than the more experienced Captain Iriyanto.

Aircraft maintenance records show the plane had problems with its rudder system 23 times in the 12 months prior to the crash.

Investigators said there was a failure to "identify repetitive defects and analyse their consequences".

The final report, which has been a year-long investigation, said bad weather conditions did not play a role in the accident and no distress signal was received.

The airline has not yet commented on the findings.

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