Sunday 21 April 2019

Lion Air plane that crashed killing 189 'was not fit to fly'

Investigation: Safety expert Nurcahyo Utomo with model plane. Photo: Darren Whiteside/Reuters
Investigation: Safety expert Nurcahyo Utomo with model plane. Photo: Darren Whiteside/Reuters

Nicola Smith

The Lion Air plane that crashed last month, killing 189 people, was not fit to fly and should have been grounded after recurring technical problems, Indonesian authorities have concluded.

The Boeing 737 MAX vanished from radar about 13 minutes after taking off from the Indonesian capital Jakarta on October 29, slamming into the Java Sea moments after the pilot had asked to return to the airport.

Data from the plane, which was presented in preliminary findings by investigators yesterday, showed the pilots fought to prevent the crash from the moment the plane took off as the 737's nose was repeatedly forced down.

This was apparently due to an automatic system receiving incorrect sensor readings.

Information from the flight data recorder reveals crews successfully battled to raise the nose more than 24 times before losing control.

The National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) did not pinpoint a definitive cause of the accident, with a final crash report not likely to be filed until next year. However, it admonished Lion Air, the nation's largest budget carrier, for putting the plane back into service despite failing to fix a problem with the airspeed indicator in the days leading up to the crash.

On its previous flight, the pilots had reported the same problem, but had deactivated the anti-stall system and continued to fly manually.

Nurcahyo Utomo, aviation head of the KNKT, said: "In our opinion, the plane was no longer airworthy and should not have continued."

The report itself did not explicitly spell out that conclusion.

Instead, it urged the airline to improve its safety culture, including to increase pilots' knowledge of emergency procedures, and to better document repair work on its planes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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