Possible seabed position of crashed Lion Air jet located

Geraldine Edwards
November 3, 2018

The Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX passenger plane which crashed in Indonesia killing 189 people onboard on Monday, faced a technical issue in a previous flight but the pilot chose to continue after things returned to normal.

The seafloor is just 30 m down, but strong currents and nearby energy pipelines have hampered the search for the aircraft operated by budget carrier Lion Air, which was heading for the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang when it crashed.

Indonesia's Minister of Transportation Budi Karya Sumadi (C), and National Search and Rescue head Muhammad Syaugi (R) inspect recovered debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 while touring the operations center at a port in northern Jakarta on October 30, 2018.

"The bigger picture here is that you've got a lot of American carriers flying the same aircraft", said Stephen Wright, aviation expert at the University of Leeds.

Indonesia's second-deadliest air disaster since 1997 has prompted renewed concern about its patchy safety record, and the government has said Lion Air will be regulated more closely.

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Safety experts cautioned, however, that the data must be checked for accuracy against the plane's "black boxes", which officials are confident will be recovered.

The recorders send out "pings" created to help investigators find the aircraft should it crash. Its transportation safety committee investigated 137 serious aviation incidents from 2012 to 2017.

Lion Air's admission that the jet had a technical issue on a previous flight - as well its abrupt fatal dive - have raised questions about whether it had mechanical faults such as a speed-and-altitude system malfunction.

His account is consistent with data from flight-tracking sites that show erratic speed, altitude and direction in the minutes after the jet took off.

The search had been stopped for the night, said Bambang Suryo, an official of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, although sonar vessels and an underwater drone continued hunting for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped.

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Black box data helps explain almost 90 per cent of all crashes, according to aviation experts.

He said technicians were also dismissed.

The nation's transport ministry said it will step up checks on aircraft and ground planes with technical snags that can't be solved. It said the "crash-survivable memory unit" was opened and washed and some of its wiring will need to be replaced and a new shell provided from Lion Air to enable a download of data.

In 2014, an AirAsia crash in the Java Sea during stormy weather killed 162 people.

Search-and-rescue officials first heard a "ping" believed to be emitted by one of the black boxes on Wednesday, two days after the Boeing 737 Max 8 went down. The U.S. lifted a decadelong ban in 2016.

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One day before a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea, the pilot flying it made a distress call minutes after take off. It has been expanding aggressively in Southeast Asia, a fast-growing region of more than 600 million people.

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