JAKARTA: Investigators tasked with analyzing the data recovered from a crashed Lion Air jet’s “black box” said on Monday that it had faced problems with its airspeed indicator during its previous four flights.
The incident which took place on October 29 resulted in the death of all 189 people on board.
The team from Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said that they had arrived at the preliminary conclusions after sifting through details of the flight data recorder (FDR), or black box, which was found in the Java Sea, near Karawang, West Java, last week.
“We have started to examine the FDR and will continue to analyze it. We found the plane’s speed indicators was damaged on the previous four flights,” KNKT Chairman, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said during a press conference on Monday.
The KNKT added that the FDR's recordings were 69 hours from 19 flights and the last date of recording was from the date of the crash and corresponded with public data available on flight-tracking websites.
Tjahjono said that the KNKT has asked the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing to take the necessary measures to deal with issues with the speed indicator. “It is to prevent a similar accident from happening again especially on the Boeing 737 Max, which has sold more than 200 units around the world,” Tjahjono said.
Anugrah Satria, one of the passengers on the flight from Denpasar to Jakarta on the night before the crash, said that it was obvious that the plane was experiencing some problems as the flight kept getting delayed. “We had to wait inside the aircraft for about 20 minutes with the air conditioner not working. It started to taxi onto the runway but was retracted into a parking mode,” Satria told Arab News.
He added that the seat belt sign was on the for the entire duration of the one and half hour flight.
“There was some unusual noise coming from the engine and I could hear it because I was sitting in the window seat of row 22 near the wings,” he said, adding that the plane’s landing in Jakarta was not smooth either and bounced slightly as the tires touched the runway.
The crashed aircraft was undertaking its JT610 flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, on the island of Bangka off Sumatra, on October 29.
As per reports, the pilots had requested to return to Jakarta, before losing contact with the air traffic controller, 13 minutes after it took off at 6.20am and after it had reached an altitude of 5,400 feet.
A search operation soon found the debris of the plane in the waters off Tanjung Pakis in Karawang, about 70 kilometers east of Jakarta.
At a meeting on Monday, to address the grieving families of the victims, Tjahjono said that the plane did not explode mid-air and was intact when it plunged into the sea, with its engine's turbines running at high speed.
Angry and distraught family members vented their frustration at the authorities for their lack of coordination and failure to provide information, with Muhammad Bambang Sukandar, the father of one of the victims, Pangky Pradana Sukandar, asking Rusdi Kirana, founder of Lion Air who was among the audience, to stand up. Kirana, who is also Indonesia’s ambassador to Malaysia, faced the angry audience, with his head slightly bowed and pressed his palms together without saying a word.
Another relative demanded that a detailed enquiry be conducted in the case which should continue even after the KNKT concludes its investigation or after the airline has compensated victims’ families. “This incident was caused by human error, whoever that is. It was pure negligence,” said another family member.
Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency, Basarnas, said that it had extended the search operations by three days until Wednesday.
Basarnas' chief, Muhammad Syaugi, reassured family members that the agency would continue to look for the remains of the victims. “We are trying the best we can with all we have... we are not giving up. Hopefully with the remaining time we can search until the 10th day,” a visibly emotional Syaugi said, as he choked and struggled to hold back his tears.
The search operation is also looking to retrieve a second black box, which contains the voice cockpit recordings from the cockpit. The Basarnas, on its part, has handed over more than 17 additional body bags to the police’s forensic team, adding to the 138 previously collected from the crash site. The forensic team said it had identified at least 24 victims as of Monday afternoon.