AirAsia Flight 8501: questions still remain

Co-pilot was flying the plane before it crashed

The co-pilot was flying the plane before AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea, while the more experienced pilot monitored the flight, CNN reports. It appears that things went wrong within just three minutes and 20 seconds, sending 162 people to their deaths on December 28.

New details were released by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. It is common for a co-pilot to be in control during parts of a flight, but questions still remain, such as why the plane started its sudden, steep ascent.

The aircraft was in good condition and all of the crew were certified, the committee said. After stormy weather was encountered, the pilot asked for permission to ascend to 38,000 feet, which as previously reported was initially refused.

The plane was veering left and wobbling. It rose from its cruising altitude to 37,400 feet in about 30 seconds in a steep ascent – a rate twice as fast as commercial planes are designed to do, an analyst told CNN. A stall warning sounded and continued until the plane crashed.

The co-pilot, Remi Emmanuel Plesel, was French. He had had 2,275 hours’ experience with AirAsia Indonesia, less than the captain, known as Irianto – many Indonesians go by one name – who had 6,100 hours with the airline and 20,000 flying hours overall.

Another question that remains is why Flight 8501 went down in an area of heavy thunderstorms while other planes nearby completed their journeys safely.

So far, 72 bodies have been recovered from the Java Sea, with 90 unaccounted for.