AirAsia crash: 'Co-pilot was flying plane'

This handout picture taken in 2013 and provided on 31 December 2014 by the Plesel family shows the co-pilot of the ill-fated Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501, Remy Emmanuel Plesel. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Remi Plesel is said to have been controlling the plane when it went down

The AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea on 28 December was under the control of its co-pilot when it went down, Indonesian investigators say.

The flight data recorder, retrieved along with the cockpit voice recorder earlier this month, showed Frenchman Remi Plesel was at the controls.

Officials said it was common practice for the co-pilot to take charge.

The plane was carrying 162 people from Surabaya to Singapore when it crashed. So far, 73 bodies have been recovered.

Mardjono Siswosuwarno, head investigator of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSB), said the flight data recorder had provided a "pretty clear picture" of what happened in the flight's last moments.

Capt Plesel was in charge from take-off until the cockpit voice recording ends, he said, adding that this was common practice.

'Within limits'

Investigators said the plane ascended sharply before dropping, rising from 32,000ft (9,750m) to 37,400ft within 30 seconds, then dipping back to 32,000ft. The process took about three minutes.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sections of the plane have been recovered but the fuselage is at the bottom of the sea

Mr Mardjono said the plane was "flying before the incident within the limits of its weight and balance envelope" and that the flight crew all had correct licences and medical certificates.

A preliminary report has been submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization, but has not been made public. The full report is likely to take about seven months, said the committee's chief Tatang Kurniadi.

Earlier this week, the military announced it was stopping attempts to retrieve the fuselage from the seabed. Authorities had believed earlier that most of the missing bodies were still in the wreckage but now believe it is empty and too fragile to move.

The civilian National Search and Rescue Agency said on Wednesday that it would continue search operations but their efforts could also end by next week if no more bodies are found.

AirAsia announced on Thursday that a total of 73 bodies have been recovered from the sea. In the past two days, local fishermen found the remains of three bodies believed to be from the crashed airliner.

BBC Indonesian reported that the remains were found some 1,000km from where the plane was last in contact.

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