(Bloomberg) — AirAsia Bhd. Flight 8501 climbed to an unauthorized altitude fast and steep before the aircraft fell into the ocean, Indonesian investigators said in their first description of the last moments of the ill-fated plane.

From a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet, the Airbus Group NV A320 plane ascended to 37,400 feet in 30 seconds as pilots probably tried to avoid bad weather, Ertata Lananggalih, an investigator at the National Transportation Safety Committee, said in Jakarta on Thursday. The aircraft then descended slowly for three minutes before it disappeared, he said.

"The pilots were conscious when the maneuver happened," Lananggalih said. "They were trying to control the airplane."

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