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    Jan 30, 2015

    Co-pilot in control just before accident: Official


    THE French first officer of an AirAsia plane that crashed into the sea last month was at the controls just before the accident, Indonesia's lead investigator said yesterday.

    "The second-in-command, popularly known as the co-pilot, who usually sits to the right of the cockpit, at the time, he was flying the plane," said National Transport Safety Committee investigator Mardjono Siswosuwarno, referring to first officer Remi Plesel.

    "The captain, sitting to the left, was the pilot monitoring."

    Data from the flight data recorder has provided the accident probe with a "pretty clear picture" of what happened in the last moments of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, Mr Siswosuwarno said, although few details have been made public.

    Indonesia has previously said the aircraft climbed abruptly from its cruising height and then stalled, or lost lift, before plunging out of control into the sea.

    Captain Iriyanto, 53, an Indonesian air force veteran with about 20,000 flying hours logged, was believed to have taken over control of the aircraft from the less experienced Plesel when it started to ascend and then descend, officials said.

    The stall warning - an automated voice that repeats the words "stall, stall" - had sounded in the cockpit. The aircraft was still in a stall when the black box recordings ended seconds before impact, Mr Siswosuwarno said.

    Investigators also revealed that prior to the crash, the aircraft had climbed fast in an area packed with cumulonimbus - huge clouds that pilots try to avoid - although they declined to say whether the plane had flown directly into them.

    The announcement came as fishermen found two more bodies from the crash in waters off Sulawesi island in central Indonesia, around 1,000km from where the plane crashed, a search-and-rescue official said.

    Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather on Dec 28 in the Java Sea, killing all 162 people on board, during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

    Only 72 bodies have been recovered so far.