Crashed Lion Air jet had damaged airspeed indicator on last 4 flights: Official

Crashed Lion Air jet had damaged airspeed indicator on last 4 flights: Official
Part of the landing gear of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at the port in northern Jakarta on Nov 5, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA/WASHINGTON - Indonesian accident investigators said an airspeed indicator of the Boeing Co 737 Max plane that crashed last week was damaged for its last four flights, but the US authorities responded cautiously to suggestions of fleet-wide checks.

The damage on a Lion Air jet that crashed into the sea, killing all 189 aboard, was revealed after data had been downloaded from the plane's flight data recorder, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) chief Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters on Monday (Nov 5).

His agency was asking Boeing and the US authorities what action to take to prevent similar problems on this type of plane around the world, he added.

"We are formulating, with NTSB and Boeing, detailed inspections regarding the airspeed indicator," he said, referring to the US National Transportation Safety Board.

The acting administrator of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Dan Elwell said the FAA and NTSB had teams of experts in Indonesia at the government's request.

"Any action the FAA would take regarding that incident would have to wait until we have findings, until we have information," Elwell said in Washington.

Indonesia has not formally requested fleet-wide checks on 737 Max jets and none are planned pending more data, a person familiar with the matter said, on condition of anonymity.

Investigators have not disclosed any reports of other airspeed failures on the aircraft.

The FAA, which regulates the US aviation industry, has not received any reports of airspeed issues with the model in the United States, said a person familiar with its reviews, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

It was not immediately clear whether the problem with the crashed jet stemmed from a mechanical or maintenance issue.

"We don't know yet where the problem lies, what repair has been done, what their reference books are, what components have been removed," said Nurcahyo Utomo, the KNKT sub-committee head for air accidents.

"These are the things we are trying to find out: what was the damage and how it was fixed."

Safety experts say it is too early to determine the cause of the crash on Monday last week of the flight from Jakarta to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.

The authorities have yet to recover the jet's cockpit voice recorder from the sea floor, just north-east of Jakarta, where the plane crashed 13 minutes into its flight.

Boeing declined to comment. The US manufacturer has delivered 219 737 Max jets to customers globally, its website shows, with 4,564 orders for jets yet to be delivered.

The Boeing 737 Max is a more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's popular single-aisle jet.

The Lion Air crash was the first involving the type of plane, which airlines introduced into service last year.

Lion Air plane carrying 189 people crashes into sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta

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    Chief of Indonesia's Lion Air flight JT610 search and rescue operations Muhammad Syaugi looks through recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta

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    A pair of infant shoes is pictured among recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta.

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    There were 189 people on board flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air when ground staff lost contact with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft early on Monday, 13 minutes after it had left the airport in Jakarta, the capital.

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    Rescue team members arrange the wreckage, showing part of the logo of Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea

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    A crying mother shows a graduation picture of her son, Agil Nugroho Septian, who was a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Tegal, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.

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    Lutfiani shows an undated picture of her husband, Deryl Fida Febrianto, a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Surabaya, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.

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    A witness in the Karawang district said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.

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    Sangeeta Suneja, mother of Bhavye Suneja, a pilot of Lion Air flight JT610 which crashed into the sea, reacts as she leaves for Jakarta, in New Delhi

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    Gulshan Suneja, father of pilot Bhavye Suneja.

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    Sony Setiawan (C) speaks to journalists at Pangkal Pinang airport in Bangka Belitung province on October 29, 2018, following his arrival on another airline after missing his pre-planned flight on Lion Air flight JT 610 which crashed off the coast north of Jakarta. - Setiawan was due to board the ill-fated Boeing-737 MAX but was held up on his commute to Soekarno-Hatta airport by Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.

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    A forensics team carries bodies of the victims of Lion Air flight JT610 to Sukanto National Police Hospital, East Jakarta, on Monday. In a statement, Lion Air said human remains had been collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the crash site, which is about 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.

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    Rescue team members carry a body bag with the remains of a passenger.

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    Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati hugs a relative of a victim of the Lion Air flight JT610 crash.

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    The Indonesian authorities have mounted a search and rescue operation for a Lion Air plane which crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Monday (Oct 29) morning.

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    There are 189 passengers and crew on board the plane, including two infants, one child, two pilots and six cabin crew.

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    The plane plunged into Karawang Bay, West Java province, Mr Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told a press briefing.

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    The waters at the crash site are around 30m to 35m deep.

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    "On the sea surface, we found debris… The location is two nautical miles from where the plane lost contact," he told reporters.

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    The crash site is near a facility of state-owned oil company Pertamina in West Java province. A video taken from a Pertamina vessel near the crash site showed oil patches on the water surface.

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    Officials said the plane had requested a return to base before finally disappearing from the radar.

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    Local TV footage also showed wallets and mobile phones that had been retrieved from the waters.

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    The head of Indonesia's national transportation safety committee (KNKT) Dr Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters that the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed entered service in August this year and had clocked only about 800 flight hours.

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    When asked on the cause of the crash, Dr Soerjanto said: "We can't presume anything before finding the blackbox and also the recording from the (air traffic control) tower."

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    An Indonedian boatman takes pictures as debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 floats at sea in the waters north of Karawang, West Java province.

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