The captain of the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that crashed into the Java Sea was not in his seat when the plane stalled. Reports indicate that the pilot had exited his seat to turn off a faulty computer while the plane was under manual control.
Reuters reports that the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 captain was out of his seat performing an "unusual procedure" when the co-pilot lost control of the jet. By the time the captain was able to make it back to his seat, it was too late to save the stalled Airbus A320. The National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) of Indonesia is investigating the role the Flight Augmentation Computer (FAC) had in the crash.
According to the Daily Mail, the FAC experienced an outage during the flight. However, Captain Iriyanto handled the situation in an "unusual" manner by disconnecting the circuit breaker to the unit. This would have placed the plane under manual control. After disconnecting the circuit breaker, the co-pilot would have full control of the plane. In the few moments it took for Captain Iriyanto to get back to his seat following the disconnecting of the circuit breaker, the plane had stalled and was crashing into the sea.
"During the few moments Iriyanto was out of his seat the co-pilot lost control. The plane climbed sharply, before either stalling or losing thrust, then fell almost straight down into the ocean below. By the time Iriyanto had managed to get back to his seat it was too late to save the aircraft."
Some are claiming that the FAC issue was ongoing on this particular plane. One man familiar with the case claims that Captain Iriyanto had flown in the same Airbus A320 several days prior to the crash and was aware the device intermittently turned itself off. However, the pilot's reaction to the device error is considered highly unusual as there is a reset button on the pilot's dashboard for the unit. This has left many pilots and investigators struggling to understand why Captain Iriyanto would have felt it necessary to leave his seat and disconnect the circuit board.
"To cut all power to it is very unusual. You don't pull the circuit breaker unless it was an absolute emergency. I don't know if there was one in this case, but it is very unusual."
It is also noted that an error in the FAC system would not be an immediate cause for concern. Though the action was unusual, the NTSC says it is too early to say exactly what role the human factors played in the crash.