Families hold mass prayer at sea for Indonesia jet crash victims

The Indonesian Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea on October 29, killing all 189 on board. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018
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Families hold mass prayer at sea for Indonesia jet crash victims

  • There is still no answer as to what caused the crash, with a preliminary report expected at the end of the month
  • The jet crashed on Oct. 29 just 12 minutes into a one-hour flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang city on Sumatra island

KARAWANG, Indonesia: Hundreds of grieving relatives prayed Tuesday at the spot where a Lion Air jet plunged into the sea as revelations over the jet’s malfunctioning air speed indicator raised fresh questions about the cause of the accident.
Tearful mourners aboard a pair of Indonesian navy vessels tossed bouquets and scattered flower petals into the Java Sea off the country’s north coast where the brand new jet crashed last week, killing all 189 people on board.
Search teams have filled some 164 body bags with remains found after the devastating crash, but only 27 victims have been identified so far, police said.
The Boeing 737-Max 8, one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes, crashed on October 29 just 12 minutes into a one-hour flight from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang city on Sumatra island.
Flight JT610 sped up as it suddenly lost altitude and then vanished from radar shortly after take-off.
Divers have retrieved the flight data recorder but are still hunting for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder.
There is still no answer as to what caused the crash, with a preliminary report expected at the end of the month.
But the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee said Monday that flight recorder data has so far revealed the plane’s air speed indicator was not working properly on its last four journeys, including the fatal flight.
The glitch had been repeatedly serviced and Lion Air’s technical team declared the plane to be airworthy.
“The technical problems on the three previous flights should have been treated as a repeat problem that cannot be fixed the same way each time,” aviation expert Alvin Lie told AFP.
A more thorough check should have been done followed by a test flight before the plane was put back into service, he added.
“The air speed indicator is a part of vital flight instruments. If it’s broken then it’s a ‘no-go’ for the plane,” Lie said.
Gerry Soejatman, another aviation analyst, said finding the cockpit voice recorder was critical for knowing how the crew reacted to the malfunction and what role it played in the crash.
“The air speed indicator plays a very important role, but (that) alone is not enough to cause a plane to crash,” he said.
It is not clear how much training the Lion pilots had on the new jet — which only went into service in August — or whether the problems could affect other Boeing 737 MAX planes.
Budget carrier Lion has been plagued by safety concerns and customer complaints over unreliable scheduling and poor service.
The carrier has been involved in a number of incidents including a fatal 2004 crash and a collision between two Lion Air planes at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport.


Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

Updated 16 February 2019
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Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

  • Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia
  • On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory

SATTAHIP, Thailand: With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach Saturday.
Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.
This year’s drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country’s Navy and Air Force.
On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory.
Captain Melvin Spiese said the goal was to “bring power from ship to shore” and be ready for “any kind of future crisis we might need to respond to with our Thai counterparts.”
Helicopters buzzed overhead and fighter jets roared across the skies.
Cobra Gold exercises span air, land and sea and feature a jungle survivalist session where participants take turns drinking blood from a severed cobra and snacking on insects and scorpions.
Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia also took part in the war games.
A 2014 army coup in Thailand tested ties with Washington and the kingdom tilted towards China with high-profile arms buys.
But US military sales continued and the two countries have upped their engagement under US President Donald Trump, who has stepped back on human rights issues and invited junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha to the White House.
Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, is standing for prime minister in elections set for March 24.