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French copilot’s family files legal case against AirAsia over Indonesia crash

Rescuers salvage part of flight AirAsia QZ8501 off Indonesia
Rescuers salvage part of flight AirAsia QZ8501 off Indonesia Reuters/Prasetyo Utomo/Pool

The family of the French copilot in the 28 December crash of an AirAsia plane off Indonesia has lodged a legal complaint against the company in Paris, because it apparently did not have authorisation to fly the route.

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AirAsia Indonesia, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s AirAsia, was not authorised to fly between the town of Surabaya, on the central Indonesian island of Java, and Singapore, according to the Indonesian transport ministry.

Rémi Plésel, from the French West Indian island of Martinique, was among the 162 people who vanished with the plane.

Shortly before the disappearance, the pilot had asked for permission to fly higher because of thick cloud but had not received it because there was too much air traffic.

Airspace in south-east Asia has become crowded, partly because of the growth of tourism, and experts say that the infrastructure is insufficient and personnel insufficiently trained.

On 9 January Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan announced the suspension of 61 domestic flights run by five local companies because they were found not to have authorisation.

Because a French national was on board Paris prosecutors had already opened an inquiry into possible manslaughter.

Plésel’s family wants an investigating magistrate, who would have more powers, to be named.

Plésel was 46 years old and had worked as an engineer for French company Total before gaining a pilot’s licence and starting work at AirAsia in 2012.

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