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December 2, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee yesterday declared pilot error to be behind the crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501. All 162 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the Java Sea a year ago.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April 2014.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

The Airbus A320-200 was around 40 minutes from Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport to Singapore’s Changi International Airport when it vanished on December 28. Wreckage and bodies were found floating two days later; National Search and Rescue Agency divers led an international recovery effort but over 50 bodies remain lost.

The pilots were facing a fault with the rudder travel limiter, a part involved in rudder control. They repeatedly received warnings on their Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system. The first three times Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto and French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel followed correct procedure only for the fault to recur. The fourth time, they tried something else — based on Flight Data Recorder readouts, investigators believe they reset power to their Flight Augmentation Computers.

The computers are principally responsible for rudder control and aircraft stability. With both computers switched off, the entire fly-by-wire system of semi-automation disconnected, as did the autopilot and autothrust systems. The pilots were now left to fly entirely manually, without automation that protects the aircraft from entering unusual and dangerous positions.

A miscommunication followed. Iriyanto asked Plesel, who was flying, to “pull down”. Plesel pulled the controls down, which pitched the nose up; Iriyanto had wanted to descend. The flight ascended without permission through 36,000ft with a ground speed of 353knts. The aircraft would normally be travelling faster, with a nearby Emirates jet at a ground speed of 503knts at 36,000ft. The aircraft also banked as the disengagement of automation left the rudder off-centre.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The AirAsia flight reached 38,000ft and entered a stall. The crew did not manage to regain control. The 155 passengers and seven crew died when the plane hit the sea. Most were Indonesians, but for three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit, and French national Plesel.

The fault was traced to cracked solder on a circuit board. It had repeatedly occurred in the weeks before the crash. The investigation concluded maintenance failings contributed to the disaster, but Muhammad Alwi of the Indonesian Transportation Ministry said “Repeated trouble in maintenance is a normal thing[…] If the trouble is fixed in accordance with the manual maintenance procedures, then it’s alright”.

Investigators believe the solder crack is attributable to extreme temperature changes in the unprotected compartment near the tail that houses the component.

The investigation further found the flight crew were untrained in recovering from extreme events. AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said yesterday “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”.

The report also dismisses weather as a contributory factor. The flight was diverting around storms in the area.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto had a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. They spent three minutes struggling to regain control as the pane fell to the sea. Some bodies were recovered around 1,000km away near Sulawesi.

AFP spoke to Terence Fan, an air industry expert from Singapore Management University, who said “It’s a scenario that has played out in air accidents in the past[…] Pilots are either distracted by a faulty equipment or cannot properly solve the issue and something else is brewing in the background.”

One such accident was the loss of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 into the Atlantic. It was investigated by the BEA of France, which also assisted the AirAsia probe. The BEA issued recommendations on how to train pilots after the Air France crash. Ex-BEA boss Jean-Paul Troadec said to AFP “Several recommendations of the (BEA) on the subject of pilot training were clearly not implemented by [AirAsia].”

Indonesia saw such an accident on New Years’ Day 2007 when Adam Air Flight 574 crashed into the Makasser Strait near Sulawesi. The plane suffered a failure on a navigational instrument. While pilots were troubleshooting for this navigational system they first unintentionally disconnected the autopilot, then lost control and crashed into the sea.



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February 8, 2015

Divers retrieve 100th corpse from Java Sea jet crash

Divers retrieve 100th corpse from Java Sea jet crash

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

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Divers yesterday recovered three bodies from December’s air disaster in the Java Sea. Added to four retrieved on Friday, they bring the total to 100. An additional 62 victims remain to be recovered.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

There were no survivors when Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed on December 28. The six-year-old Airbus A320-200 was 40 minutes from Juanda International Airport with 155 passengers and seven crew, bound for Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Most were Indonesians, with three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit and one French person on board.

One of the latest bodies was a uniformed man strapped into a cockpit seat, and presumed to be either Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto or French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel. Underwater currents have complicated recovery of the other body from the cockpit. Efforts to retrieve the entire aircraft last month were abandoned. Some bodies have been found roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the crash site, floating near Sulawesi.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto has a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. Their actions have come under scrutiny as the National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) investigates.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The aircraft entered an excessively steep climb before stalling, the NTSC said last month. It took three minutes for the plane to reach the water, during which time the flight crew tried to regain control. Bloomberg claims the flight crew switched off computers designed to aid them after they issued alerts. AirAsia has declined to comment pending the NTSC investigation, which is expected to continue for several months.

The Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics suggests weather caused the disaster, suggesting ice led to engine failure. NTSC head investigator Marjono Siswosuwarno last month reported satellite data showed storms as high as 44,000ft. The plane was attempting to avoid storms in the minutes before contact was lost.

The National Search and Rescue Agency has over 60 divers working to retrieve the bodies.



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July 15, 2011

Indonesian volcano eruption prompts thousands to evacuate

Indonesian volcano eruption prompts thousands to evacuate

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Friday, July 15, 2011

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Mount Lokon erupting in Indonesia
Image: Henrik Hansson.

Mount Lokon, one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia, has erupted for the first time since 1991. The volcano has erupted at least three times in the space of two days.

In the immediate aftermath of the eruption, no casualties have been reported. However, 4,400 have been evacuated from the surrounding area as a result of the incident with 28,000 evacuations being recommended in total by a disaster and vulcanology relief centre, aimed at those residing within a three-and-a-half kilometre (two mile) radius of the landmark, which was created last weekend. As well as this, the centre has increased the volcano status to its peak level. According to Darwis Sitinjak, a representative of an agency involved with disasters, rescuers – assisted by police officers and soldiers – were evacuating around five hundred inhabitants of the slopes of the mountain, Sitinjak told radio station El Shinta.

Lokon, in Sulawesi, a province located in the north of the country, commenced experiencing a volcanic eruption at approximately 1530 UTC Thursday. According to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, “[t]he eruption has set ablaze the forests around the crater”. Kristianto, a volcanologist working for the government of Indonesia, has reported “no mass panic because the community has already been warned of the situation” and the evacuation of residents is ongoing, Kristianto said to Agence France-Presse. On Wednesday, two thousand other people departed from the area.

Out of the 129 volcanoes located in Indonesia, Mount Lokon is considered to be amongst the most active, standing at a peak of 1,580 metres (5,184 feet). Rocks, lava, smoke, ash and sand were thrown at a height of 1,500 metres (4,800 feet), according to Kristianto. On Friday, Lokon erupted again at around 1700 UTC on Thursday before erupting for a third time at approximately 1810 UTC the same day.



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December 10, 2009

Thousands of Indonesians protest against corruption

Thousands of Indonesians protest against corruption

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

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Several thousand people marched earlier today in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, to protest corruption in the country.

Most of them were students protesting the latest corruption scandal in the country. It involves allegations that a US$600 million government bailout was given to Century Bank on condition that some of the money be used to fund the president’s re-election campaign.

“Today’s aim is not to attack politically any party. We just want to send a message to our fellow countrymen […] that justice cannot be served while corruption is still rampant in our country,” said the organiser of the demonstration, Usman Hamid, as quoted by the Al Jazeera news agency.

The legislature is investigating the bailout and the possible roles played by Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani in orchestrating a deal. The government, however, denies the charges.

Thousands more demonstrated in other cities and towns across the country. Most rallies were without incident, but in the town of Makassar, located in South Sulawesi, students armed with rocks and wooden planks clashed with anti-riot police.

The news media report that police fired tear gas to break up the crowd after protesters tried to storm the provincial governor’s office. There was no immediate report of injuries or arrests among the 2,000 protesters.



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November 22, 2009

Indonesian ferry sinks, at least nine dead

Indonesian ferry sinks, at least nine dead

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

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Reports from Indonesia now say at least nine people were killed and over 200 rescued today, after a ferry sank in rough waters near Sumatra island.

The Dumai Express 10 was sailing from Batam island to Dumai in Riau province on Sunday morning when it sank. Officials blamed bad weather for the accident, but there have been reports that the ferry was severely overloaded.

Sunaryo, the director-general of sea transport, said the ferry’s capacity was 273 people, and only 213 passengers were on the manifest, but one official put the number rescued at 292. Sunaryo said the large disparity between reality and the manifest was a “classic case” of breaking regulations.

Separately, another ferry, the Dumai Express 15 with 278 people on board, ran aground today after it was hit by large waves on its way from Batam to Moro island. Authorities say all passengers and crew survived.

Indonesians rely heavily on ferries to transport them between the thousands of islands that make up the archipelago. Ferry accidents are common due to bad weather, poor infrastructure and a tendency to overload vessels. Around 800 people have been killed in ferry accidents in Indonesia over the past three years, including at least 232 in an accident off Sulawesi in January this year.



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March 25, 2008

Final report blames instrument failure for Adam Air Flight 574 disaster

Final report blames instrument failure for Adam Air Flight 574 disaster

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This B737-400 is comparable to the aircraft involved in all the accidents mentioned in this story. Note that Flight 574 was waiting repainting and was mostly in white, as pictured below.

A final report released today by the Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee found that Adam Air Flight 574 crashed because the pilots were distracted by an instrument failure. The loss of the budget carrier’s Boeing 737 into the sea near Sulawesi on New Year’s Day 2007 left all 102 on board missing and presumed dead.

The report found that the 737, registered PK-KKW, suffered a Inertial Reference System (IRS) failure. While pilots were troubleshooting for this navigational system they first unintentionally disconnected the autopilot, then failed to monitor other instruments informing them they were approaching the sea, crashing into it and destroying the aircraft.

The flight had been a scheduled domestic passenger service between Djuanda Airport at Surabaya and Sam Ratulangi Airport at Manado, and disappeared from radar screens at 35,000 feet.

National Transportation Safety Committee head Tatang Kurniadi told a press conference “This accident resulted from a combination of factors including the failure of the pilots to adequately monitor the flight instruments, especially in the last two minutes of the flight. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the Inertial Reference System diverted both pilot’s attention from the flight instruments and allowed the increasing descent and bank angle to unnoticed…

CG render of Adam Air’s PK-KKW Boeing 737-4Q8, which was lost in the accident

“The Cockpit Voice recorder revealed that both pilots were concerned about navigation problems and subsequently become engrossed with trouble shooting Inertial Reference System (IRS) anomalies for at least the last 13 minutes of the flight, with minimal regard to other flight requirements. This included identification and attempts at corrective actions.”

He also supplied a number of statistics concerning the final moments of the flight. Whilst in a right bank with sustained elevator input pushing up the nose the aircraft reached Mach 0.926 and 3.5g. The airspeed had reached 490 KCAS by the end of the recording. Investigator Santoso Sayogo said that the high speed impact caused the plane to disintegrate.

Adam Air had suffered previous navigational problems. In 2006 another B737 suffered a navigational problem and flew into a radar blackspot, leaving it lost for several hours before performing an emergency landing hundreds of miles from the intended destination. Sayogo said today that in the three months preceding the accident the airline had registered 154 defects in PK-KKW’s navigational equipment.

The accident has had wide-ranging effects. The crash, coupled with Adam Air Flight 172, which snapped in half during a hard landing, and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, which overshot the runway in Yogyakarta, killing 21, prompted the European Union to add all Indonesia’s airlines to the list of air carriers banned in the EU. Earlier this month another Adam Air flight departed the end of a runway during landing, injuring five and damaging the plane. This prompted the authorities to ground Adam Air for three months after a regular evaluation, after which they may be permanently shut down. The airline is also in financial difficulty. All the accidents involved Boeing 737s.



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October 19, 2007

At least 31 dead and 35 missing after loss of Indonesian passenger ferry

At least 31 dead and 35 missing after loss of Indonesian passenger ferry

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Map showing location of Sulawesi Island (light green) among the islands of Indonesia.

At least 31 people have died and 35 more are missing after wooden passenger ferry Acita III sank off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. At least 125 more have been rescued.

The vessel capsized and sank at approximately 9 p.m. local time last night, going down near the port town of Bau Bau. It has been suggested that bad weather was the cause of the disaster, but Bau Bau mayor Amirul Tamin has told reporters that he believes overcrowding was a much more likely cause.

An alternative explanation was offered by local police chief Mochammad Badrus, who says that the ship capsized after large numbers of passengers clambered onto an upper deck in attempts to gain mobile phone signals as the ferry neared land. Local residents and fisherman say they could hear people screaming for help as the accident unfolded.

Passenger manifests are rare and usually inaccurate when they are available in Indonesia, so passenger numbers are unconfirmed, but the ship was thought to have been carrying 150 – 200 people. However, Tamin has said that the ferry should only have been carrying a maximum of 30 passengers.

It is Indonesia’s most serious ferry accident since the Levina 1 caught fire in February, which, in turn, came after MV Senopati Nusantara sank during a storm in late December.



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August 28, 2007

Black boxes retrieved from lost Indonesian airliner after eight months

Black boxes retrieved from lost Indonesian airliner after eight months

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eight months after the January 1st crash of Adam Air Flight 574 into Indonesian waters, the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) have been retrieved from the wreckage.

The devices, collectively referred to as ‘black boxes’, had remained unrecovered over a dispute between the Indonesian government and the airline over who would bear the costs of salvage.

Only recently has a contract been signed with United States salvage firm Phoenix International, who arrived last week in Indonesia to receive the recorders, working co-operatively with the Indonesian Transport Safety Commission (ITSC) and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The boxes were located by an underwater remotely operated vehicle searching the seabed near Majene, Sulawesi, where the plane went down. They were approximately 2,000 metres (6,500 ft) down and 1,400 metres apart. The FDR was recovered on August 27 at midday and the CVR was retrieved the following day at 10 a.m.

According to Tatang Kurniadi, chairman of the ITSC, the boxes exibit only minor physical damage, but there is currently no way of knowing if the data they contain has been damaged or destroyed by their prolonged stay underwater.

The devices will now be sent to Washington for analysis by NTSB specialists.

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August 23, 2007

Salvage operation begins to retrieve black boxes from Adam Air Flight 574

Salvage operation begins to retrieve black boxes from Adam Air Flight 574

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

A salvage ship owned and operated by the United States firm Phoenix International has arrived in the Makassar port on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. It intends to recover the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder (collectively referred to as “black boxes”) from the wreckage of Adam Air Flight 574, which crashed into the ocean nearby early on new year’s day, killing all 102 on board.

Adam Air spokesman Danke Drajat told reporters that the company would first survey the area, and that “If their studies show it is possible to do so, they will immediately try to retrieve the black boxes,” adding, “it is our moral commitment to have the black box retrieved.” He also said the survey alone would take several days.

A US navy vessel, the Mary Sears, sent to the scene of the plane’s disappearance had located the black boxes within weeks of the disaster, along with the rest of the wreckage, but recovery was significantly delayed because of a dispute over who would foot the bill for their recovery. With the recorders at a depth of approximately 1,700 meters (1 mile), salvage operations could cost as much as US$6 million (€4.45 million).

Experts have predicted that the recovery could be further complicated by strong currents in the area, which may have buried the recorders in sediment or else dislodged them from their original location.

According to one crew member, the recovery vessel – the Eas – has a 16-member crew and carries a mini submarine, which can reach depths of 6,000 meters (20,000 feet), as well as being equipped with sonar and deep sea cameras.

The crash is one of three this year, which in combination have caused all Indonesian airlines to be added to the list of air carriers banned in the EU. The other two are Adam Air Flight 172 and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200.

The cause of the Boeing 737s loss currently remains a mystery. It is known that while cruising at 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) the aircraft encountered a storm immediately before its disappearance, and, based on the distribution of wreckage on the seabed, it is also known that the aircraft did not experience an in-flight breakup.

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May 29, 2007

Adam Air strikes deal with salvage firm to retrieve black boxes of crashed airliner

Adam Air strikes deal with salvage firm to retrieve black boxes of crashed airliner

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An example of a cockpit voice recorder.

Indonesia budget airline Adam Air has reached an agreement with United States marine salvage firm Phoenix International to retrieve the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder (or “black boxes”) from Adam Air Flight 574, a Boeing 737 aircraft that crashed into the sea on New Year’s Day near Sulawesi, Indonesia during a scheduled domestic passenger flight, killing all 102 on board.

According to Adam Air chairman Adam Suherman the salvage operation will be conducted in July.

Previous disputes had left doubts over whether the devices would be retrieved at all, with both the government and Adam Air placing responsibility for funding the operation on each other. Indonesia does not have the equipment or the funds to conduct the operation itself, and had originally asked Japan, France and the US for help. They eventually announced that they would not pay for the operation, neither could they force Adam Air to.

A flight data recorder.

However, Adam Air took it upon themselves to retrieve the recorders, culminating in this agreement with Phoenix. The lack of either recorder has thus far made determining the cause of the disaster extremely difficult.

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