Bad weather was the likely cause of the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 which resulted in the deaths of all 162 passengers and crew.
The claim comes in an initial report by the Indonesian meteorological agency, BMKG.
According to the agency, ‘The flight document provided by the BMKG office shows fairly worrying weather conditions for the aircraft at cruising level on the chosen route’.
“From our data it looks like the last location of the plane had very bad weather and it was the biggest factor behind the crash,” said Edvin Aldrian, BKMG’s Head of Research.
Mr Aldrian said that icing was a significant factor, possibly affecting the operation of the plane’s engines and causing it to stall.
It is known that shortly before the crash the pilot requested permission to change altitude from 32,000ft to 38,000ft. (Flight levels are always given in these imperial units, rather than metres.)
This request was refused which would have left the crew to contend with extensive cumulonimbus clouds. These are likely to have extended to an altitude of more than 50,000ft, based on weather balloon data from around the region.
Weather forecasts at the time were predicting cloud heights of between 50,000 and 53,000ft.
Reuters news agency has reported that a source close to the investigation told them that radar data apparently showed that the aircraft made an ‘impossibly steep’ climb shortly before the crash, possibly taking it above the operating limits of an Airbus A320.
The recovery operation has been hampered by ongoing poor weather conditions. Most of the bodies have yet to be recovered from the Java Sea. The plane’s black boxes, flight data and cockpit voice recorders have yet to be located.