Investigator in Crash of QZ8501 Says Muslim Pilot’s Voice Was ‘Drowned Out’ by Sound of Alarms

The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) for Asia Airlines Flight QZ8501 is being analyzed and some of the information about the findings has been leaked by an investigator from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC), an entity with a checkered past. One particular bit of information brought forward by the anonymous investigator may be setting the stage for the public being told that it’s not known what the last words of the pilot – Captain Iriyanto – may have been.

Captain Iriyanto

Captain Iriyanto

According to a report by AFP:

The noise of several alarms – including one that indicated the plane was stalling – can be heard in recordings from the black box in the Airbus A320-200’s cockpit, AFP reports.

The investigator, from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, told the agency the pilots’ voices were drowned out by the sound of the alarms. The investigator requested anonymity.

As reported, the NTSC’s past is checkered indeed. After an investigation into what happened to Silk Air Flight MI185 in 1997 revealed an intentional mass murder / suicide by Captain Tsu Way Ming, the head of the NTSC investigation team covered up the truth. There was much speculation at the time that the investigator’s Muslim faith played a role in doing so. A 2001 Los Angeles Times article included the following excerpt about that investigation:

Some critics have accused Diran of trying to cover up for Singapore, which has many financial ties to Indonesia. Others suggest that he refused to reach a conclusion of suicide because of his Muslim beliefs. But the professor dismisses such claims.

“I don’t think being a Muslim will make me not objective,” he said. “All they can say is that I am stupid, not that I am intentionally covering up.”

As reported, the cover-up was so egregious that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a completely separate and unprecedented public response that expressed vehement disagreement with NTSC’s findings. Here is a documentary on the disaster and subsequent investigation, cued up to start at the relevant point:

Shortly after the disappearance of QZ8501, reported on the findings from Indonesian sources that Iriyanto was a devout Muslim. Iriyanto was a seasoned pilot who had logged more than 20,000 flight hours and even spent nine years flying fighter jets with the Indonesian Air Force.

Iriyanto’s experience with piloting both commercial airliners and fighter jets is indeed significant relative to how QZ8501 crashed. According to the BBC, 8501 climbed far too fast:

The AirAsia flight that crashed in the Java Sea, killing 162 people, climbed too fast before stalling, Indonesia’s transport minister has said.

Ignasius Jonan told a parliamentary hearing in Jakarta that flight QZ8501 had ascended at a speed of 6,000ft (1,828m) per minute.

He said it was not normal for a passenger jet to climb so fast…

Mr Jonan told the hearing that radar data from the moments before the plane was lost revealed its speed of ascent.

“It is not normal to climb like that. It’s very rare for commercial planes, which normally climb just 1,000 to 2,000 feet per minute,” he said.

“It can only be done by a fighter jet.”

Here is a digital depiction of how Iriyanto may have handled the plane in the last seconds:

It has been reported that Iriyanto sought to climb from 32,000 ft. to 38,000 ft. due to weather but was denied permission to do so because there was heavy air traffic in the area.

Whatever happened to QZ8501, any findings released by the NTSC – based on its history – should be viewed with skepticism.


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