Indonesia to probe Lion Air after deadly plane crash

The budget carrier has been a regular target of complaints about poor service, unreliable scheduling and safety issues. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Indonesia to probe Lion Air after deadly plane crash

  • The budget carrier has been a regular target of complaints about poor service, unreliable scheduling and safety issues
  • A week after the disaster, there is still no answer as to what caused the crash

JAKARTA: Indonesia is to launch a “special audit” of Lion Air’s operations in the wake of last week’s deadly crash that killed 189 people, the government said Monday.
The budget carrier has been a regular target of complaints about poor service, unreliable scheduling and safety issues, including a fatal 2004 crash.
That safety record has been under the microscope since a new Boeing 737-Max 8 plunged into the Java Sea just 12 minutes after taking off from Jakarta last Monday.
“We will...conduct a special audit of the crews’ qualifications and staff communication,” transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters Monday.
“This is a preventative measure ... (The accident) is a very expensive lesson for us.”
Civil Aviation authorities in the United States and Europe were also being consulted for their help in the probe, he added.
Meanwhile, authorities have extended their search as they collect more body parts and shattered debris from the spot where the plane crashed during a routine one-hour flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang.
Scores of body bags filled with remains have been collected and sent for DNA testing, but so far just 14 people have been identified.
Search and rescue agency head Muhammad Syaugi tearfully apologized Monday as relatives’ clamor for answers grew louder, with accusations that the pace of recovery is lagging.
“We are not perfect human beings,” he said, sobbing. “We have flaws, but we doing the best we can.”
The Lion Air investigation comes after Indonesia’s government ordered an inspection of all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in the country.
All were found to be airworthy although two required repairs for “minor” problems.
The ministry had previously removed several Lion Air executives and technicians, saying they were needed to help authorities in the investigation.
A week after the disaster, there is still no answer as to what caused the crash.
Divers have pulled the plane’s flight data recorder from the water, but are still hunting for the cockpit voice recorder — a key device that could provide clues to what caused the almost brand-new plane to plunge into the sea.
Lion Air’s admission that the doomed jet had a technical issue on a previous flight — and the captain’s request to turn back to the airport minutes before its fatal dive — have raised questions about whether it had faults specific to one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes.
But the accident has also resurrected concerns about Indonesia’s poor air safety record, which until recently saw its carriers facing years-long bans from entering European Union and US airspace.


Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 35 min 31 sec ago
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Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.