A faulty component was a “major factor” in the crash of an AirAsia aircraft in the Java Sea, according to Indonesian investigators.
The Malaysian budget carrier lost contact with flight QZ 8501 on December 28 last year as it was flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore with 162 people on board.
The flight control computer on the Airbus A320 had a cracked solder joint that malfunctioned four times during the flight and 23 times the previous year, according to investigators.
Investigators pinpointed the fault to the rudder control system.
The pilots responded to four warning alerts by resetting the system, which caused the autopilot to disengage, and they lost control of the aircraft.
The captain and co-pilot reacted differently – one pulled the control stick while the other pushed – making recovery of the aircraft ineffective, head investigator Nurcahyo Utomo from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, told reporters in Jakarta.
“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,” Indonesia’s national transport safety committee was reported by Sky News as saying.
The committee is recommending Airbus to have a connected control-stick system in place, similar to those used in Boeing aircraft, he said.
The committee is also asking Airbus to have mandatory recovery training for all pilots using their aircraft. Airbus said in a statement that it is studying the contents of the report.
The safety committee is recommending all pilots be trained in taking over the controls during a crisis, and that the transport ministry require all airlines to have maintenance systems that can detect repeated defects in aircraft, the investigator said.
The aircraft crashed less than half-way into the two-hour flight.
Wreckage from the A320 and its black box data recorder were recovered from the sea in January.
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