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AirAsia jet ascended at ‘above normal speed, then stalled’

JAKARTA — In some of the first comments describing the last moments of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which crashed into the Java Sea on Dec 28, Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said radar data showed the ill-fated jet had climbed at a “beyond normal” speed before stalling.

JAKARTA — In some of the first comments describing the last moments of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which crashed into the Java Sea on Dec 28, Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said radar data showed the ill-fated jet had climbed at a “beyond normal” speed before stalling.

“The plane suddenly went up at a speed above the normal limit that it was able to climb to. Then it stalled,” he told reporters.

The Indonesian authorities listening to the cockpit-voice recorder of Flight QZ8501 said they heard no explosion, which is leading them to rule out terrorism and look at human or aircraft error as the cause of the plane’s crash.

The airliner’s voice recorder shows only that the pilots were talking in the cockpit, so there is no evidence of terrorism taking the plane down, said investigator Nurcahyo Utomo of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee.

An initial report on the loss of the jet will be issued by next week, investigators said.

“There’s a possibility of airplane malfunction; a possibility of the human factor,” Mr Utomo said.

“There’s no explosion like (that of) MH17 in Ukraine,” he added, referring to the Malaysia Airlines flight thought to have been shot down over the eastern European country last July.

Decoding the information stored in the flight-data recorder and cockpit-voice recorder, known as the black boxes, and piecing together debris will help investigators understand what caused the plane to crash.

The Airbus single-aisle jet went off the radar on Dec 28 while flying to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, after the pilot had sought permission to change course because of clouds in his path.

Meanwhile, Mr Jonan proposed a number of changes to improve aviation safety standards at a parliamentary hearing yesterday.

The minister told the hearing a number of new rules regarding permits and safety, including health checks for flight crew and air-traffic controllers, had been implemented since the crash.

“It is a habit among airlines that they sometimes sell tickets before having obtained a route permit,” Mr Jonan said. “Now, route permits must be obtained four months before the flight and airlines will not be allowed to sell tickets before that.”

The Transport Ministry has suspended AirAsia’s Surabaya-Singapore licence to fly on a Sunday, for which it did not have permission. However, the ministry has said this had no bearing on the crash.

Mr Jonan added that applications for route permits and air-transport licences would be moved online next month.

The ministry also recommended that wages for operations personnel such as maintenance and safety-inspection officials be raised, he said.

President Joko Widodo has called for an urgent overhaul of the Indonesian aviation sector, which is among the fastest-growing in the region, but has seen airlines with patchy safety records mushroom to cater to demand from a growing middle class.

Analysts say infrastructure has failed to keep up with the boom in air travel in South-east Asia’s biggest economy, leading to overcrowded airports. AGENCIES

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