Surabaya — Indonesian investigators confirmed today that last year’s AirAsia crash, which caused the death of 162 passengers, was due to a rudder control system problem and human error from the pilots.

The flight took off on December 28 of the year 2014, from Indonesia to Singapore. Through an analysis of the flight’s recorded data, the National Transportation Safety Committee reported that the rudder control system had sent various warnings to the pilots. In fact, according to the Airbus A320’s aircraft maintenance records, these warnings had been repeated 23 times throughout last year, before the accident happened — 9 of them during December.

Photo: CBS News.
The harsh weather conditions made the recovery of the bodies a hard labor, so only 106 of the deceased passengers were retrieved. Photo: CBS News.

Investigators said the warnings alerted about an issue of an electronic card with cracked soldering. Although the faulty card itself shouldn’t have caused such a large scale accident, Nurcahyo Utomo, an investigator on the case, explained that the problem began when a crew member removed a circuit breaker in an attempt to reset the system, going against the regular protocol. This measure stopped the autopilot from working and so, the plane started descending towards the Java Sea despite the pilot’s efforts to climb up in the last moments.

Utomo added that three days before the crash, the same pilot had been receiving similar warnings. He had apparently watched a technician fixing the system by changing the circuit breaker. The investigator suggests that there was a miscommunication between pilot and co-pilot.

According to the investigators, the stormy weather that day didn’t have a direct relation with the accident, since the aircraft didn’t send any distress signals. The air traffic control had showed the pilots that the plane was entering a cloudy area, and so they asked permission to ascend from 9,753 meters to 11,582 meters to dodge the clouds, but their request was denied due to heavy air traffic.

“There is much to be learned here for AirAsia, the manufacturer and the aviation industry. We will not leave any stone unturned to make sure the industry learns from this tragic incident,” posted Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s chief executive, on his twitter account.

In the lights of the tragedy, the Indonesian branch of AirAsia has promised to start up a new system that features live monitoring of planes’ warning messages, and also improves and increases the training of pilots to prevent further mishandlings during flights.

Source: The Washington Post