Saturday, January 16

Crashed Lion Air jet had air speed indicator glitch on fatal flight

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An Indonesian National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) official carries debris from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta. — Reuters photo

JAKARTA: An Indonesian Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea last week, killing all 189 on board, had an air speed indicator problem on its fatal flight and on three previous journeys, the country’s transportation watchdog said yesterday.

The new details — gleaned from a recovered flight data recorder — come after the government said it was launching a “special audit” of the budget carrier’s operations.

A week after the disaster, there is still no answer as to what caused the crash.

Lion — long been dogged by safety problems — has said the Boeing 737-Max 8 suffered a technical issue on the flight just prior to its deadly crash Monday and that it was fixed.

But the National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) said Monday that the black box data showed the plane had an air speed indicator issue on at least two other earlier flights.

“There were four flights in all that suffered a problem with the airspeed indicator,” NTSC head Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters.

“When there was a problem, the pilot would write it down and the mechanic would do (a repair)…Then the plane would be declared airworthy.”

The agency said it would probe what caused the indicator problem and whether proper repairs were done — including replacing the faulty component, he added.

It did not give more details and did not speculate on how the indicator problem may have played a role in the crash, as it continues to mine the flight recorder — seen as key to answering why a nearly brand new plane fell out of the sky.

Lion’s earlier admission that the jet had a technical issue — and the captain’s request to turn back to the airport minutes before the crash — have raised questions about whether it had faults specific to one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes.

Divers are still hunting for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder.

Flight JT610 sped up as it suddenly lost altitude and then vanished from radar 12 minutes after take-off, with witnesses saying the single-aisle jet plunged into the water. — AFP