JAKARTA – An AirAsia plane that crashed last month with 162 people on board was climbing at an abnormally rapid rate, before it plunged and disappeared from radar, Indonesiaâ€™s transport minister has said.
Ignasius Jonan told parliament that radar data showed the Airbus A320 was climbing at about 6,000ft a minute before it disappeared on 28 December. â€œIt is not normal to climb like that, itâ€™s very rare for commercial planes, which normally climb just 1,000 to 2,000ft per minute,â€ he said. â€œIt can only be done by a fighter jet.â€
He did not say what was believed to have caused the plane to climb so rapidly.
In their last contact with air traffic controllers, the pilots of AirAsia flight 8501 asked to climb from 32,000ft to 38,000ft to avoid threatening clouds, but were denied permission because of heavy air traffic. Four minutes later the plane disappeared. No distress signal was received.
An excessively rapid ascent is likely to cause a plane to go into an aerodynamic stall. In 2009, an Air France Airbus A330 disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Investigators were able to determine from the jetâ€™s black boxes that the plane began a steep climb and then went into a stall from which the pilots were unable to recover.
An Airbus spokesman said it was too early to comment on possible similarities between the two crashes.
Survey ships have located at least nine big objects, including the AirAsia jetâ€™s fuselage and tail, in the Java Sea. The planeâ€™s black boxes â€“ the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder â€“ have been recovered but are still being analysed.
The plane was en route from Surabaya, Indonesiaâ€™s second-largest city, to Singapore. Fifty-one bodies have been recovered so far. Rough sea conditions have repeatedly prevented divers from reaching the wreckage. – AP