by Staff writer
An Indonesian airplane crashed into the sea on Monday, with the likely loss of all 189 people on board, as it tried to return to Jakarta minutes after take-off.
The Lion Air Boeing 737 passenger plane was en route from the capital to Pangkal Pinang, centre of the Bangka-Belitung tin mining region when it crashed.
Rescue officials said they had recovered human remains from the crash site, about 15 km (nine miles) off the coast.
Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record is patchy. If all aboard have died, the crash will be its second-worst air disaster since 1997, industry experts said.
The pilot had asked to return to base (RTB) shortly after take-off. It lost contact with ground staff after 13 minutes.
“An RTB was requested and had been approved but we’re still trying to figure out the reason,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee, told reporters, referring to the pilot’s request.
“We hope the black box is not far from the main wreckage so it can be found soon,” he said, referring to the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.
Search and rescue agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.
Yusuf Latief, spokesman of national search and rescue agency, said there were likely no survivors.
At least 23 government officials, four employees of state tin miner PT Timah and three employees of a Timah subsidiary, were on the plane. A Lion Air official said one Italian passenger and an Indian pilot were on board.
Speaking at a hospital, a tearful Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati paid tribute to the 21 officials from her ministry on the doomed flight who she said “died doing their duty”.
Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told reporters the aircraft had had a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta but it had been “resolved according to procedure”.
Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of its other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.
The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s workhorse single-aisle jet.
Privately owned Lion Air said the aircraft had been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.
Credit – Reuters