Lion Air jet was 'not airworthy' on flight before crash

The aircraft was deemed unfit to fly. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 November 2018
0

Lion Air jet was 'not airworthy' on flight before crash

  • Contact with the jet was lost 13 minutes after it took off from the capital
  • After the crash, Lion Air instructed pilots to provide a “full comprehensive description” of technical defects to the engineering team

JAKARTA: The Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea last month was not in an airworthy condition even on its second-to-last flight, when pilots experienced similar problems to those on its doomed last journey, Indonesian investigators said on Wednesday.
In a preliminary report, Indonesia’s transport safety committee (KNKT) focused on the airline’s maintenance practices and pilot training and a Boeing Co. anti-stall system but did not give a cause for the crash that killed all 189 people on board.
The report unveiled fresh details of efforts by pilots to steady the 737 MAX jet as they reported a “flight control problem,” including the captain’s last words to air traffic control asking to be cleared to “five thou” or 5,000 feet.
Contact with the jet was lost 13 minutes after it took off from the capital, Jakarta, heading north to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.
Information retrieved from the flight data recorder showed the “stick shaker” was vibrating the captain’s controls warning of a stall throughout most of the flight. The captain was using his controls to bring the airline’s nose up, but an automated anti-stall system was pushing it down.
Pilots flying the same plane a day earlier had experienced a similar problem, en route from Denpasar, Bali, to Jakarta, until they used switches to shut off the system and used manual controls to fly and stabilize the plane, KNKT said.
“The flight from Denpasar to Jakarta experienced stick shaker activation during the takeoff rotation and remained active throughout the flight,” the report said. “This condition is considered as un-airworthy condition” and the flight should have been “discontinued.”
The pilots of that flight reported problems to Lion Air’s maintenance team, which checked the jet and cleared it for take-off on the doomed flight the next morning.
After the crash, Lion Air instructed pilots to provide a “full comprehensive description” of technical defects to the engineering team, KNKT said.
In a statement, Boeing drew attention in detail to a list of airline maintenance actions set out in the report but stopped short of blaming ground workers or pilots for the accident.
The company, which has said procedures for preventing an anti-stall system activating by accident were already in place, said pilots of the previous flight had used that drill but noted the report did not say if pilots of the doomed flight did so.
Boeing’s statement did not make any reference to a revised anti-stall system introduced on the 737 MAX which US pilots say and Indonesian investigators say was missing from the operating manual.
Boeing says the procedure for dealing with a so-called runaway stabilizer, under which anti-stall systems push the nose down even when the plane is not entering a stall or losing lift, had not changed between earlier version of the 737 and the newly delivered 737 MAX.
Pilots however say the control column behaves differently in certain conditions, which could confuse pilots who have flown the earlier model.
Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air, said he had not yet read the KNKT report but will comply with all of the investigators’ recommendations.
The report provided new recommendations to Lion Air on safety on top of earlier recommendations about the flight manual that have already been implemented by Boeing.


Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

Updated 13 December 2018
0

Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

  • Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month
  • The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days

JAKARTA: Families of some of the 189 people killed in a Lion Air plane crash plan a protest rally in Indonesia on Thursday, while stalled efforts to bring the main wreckage to the surface and find the second black box are set to resume next week.
The Boeing Co. 737 MAX jet crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 shortly after take-off from Jakarta, but the families expressed concern that the remains of 64 passengers have yet to be identified, with just 30 percent of the plane’s body found.
“The relatives hope that all members of our families who died in the accident can be found and their bodies buried in a proper way,” a group that says it represents about 50 families said in a statement.
“We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology,” it added, ahead of the rally planned for outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month, Reuters reported.
Indonesia’s national transport panel said the vessel was due to arrive on Monday.
The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days, a source close to the airline said on Thursday, on condition of anonymity, adding that Lion Air is paying because the government does not have the budget.
A spokesman for Lion Air was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Funds for the CVR search will be borne by Lion Air which has signed a contract for a ship from a Singaporean company,” a finance ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
In this case, investigators said they had faced bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems before Lion Air stepped in.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by UN rules to be independent, so as to ensure trust in any safety recommendations made.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc. cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.