Lion Air Crash: Aircraft Should Have Been Grounded

KARAWANG INDONESIA- NOVEMBER 06 Families and colleagues of victims of Lion Air flight JT 610 cry on deck of Indonesian Navy ship KRI Banjarmasin during visit and pray at the site of the crash

The plane crashed just 15 minutes after the flight took off from Jakarta on October 29, with the system showing it dipped up and down more than 26 times during that brief period.

Although the initial report doesn't assign definitive cause to the accident, the NTSC was blunt about the airline's maintenance: "In our opinion, the plane was no longer airworthy and it should not have continued", Nurcahyo Utomo, the NTSC's aviation lead, told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday in Indonesia.

The crash appears to have been caused by a mix of brand-new technology and cockpit confusion as the pilots fought to gain altitude after an early-morning takeoff from Jakarta.

Unions representing pilots at Southwest and American airlines said they were not properly informed about the new system during training.

Questions have surrounded the safety of the aircraft and other models comprising the best-selling 737 MAX family (the -7 and the -9).

CNN aviation analyst David Soucie said that the circumstances created by the plane's automatic correction would have made pilot intervention "impossible".

Based on the wreckage recovered from the crash site "the damage to the aircraft suggested a high energy impact", according to the report. To prevent a stall, the automated anti-stall system directed the aircraft's nose down.

Wednesday's preliminary report recommends that Lion Air review its safety culture while the investigation continues, and while officials search for cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which is believed to be buried under mud on the ocean floor.

However, during the 29 October flight, the plane's automatic anti-stalling system repeatedly forced the plane's nose down, even when the plane was not stalling - possibly due to a faulty sensor, the report said.

A policeman stands guard near the wreckage of Lion Air's flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta
Image A policeman stands guard near the wreckage in Jakarta

The prospect that a runaway autopilot system could have contributed to the crash has already been the subject of at least one lawsuit implicating Boeing, with the father of a Lion Air Flight 610 crash victim filing suit recently.

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 tragedy was the first involving Boeing's latest model of the 737 series, 737 MAX, which entered service a year ago.

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 plane experienced technical problems in four earlier flights. "Therefore, he is responsible for ensuring the aircraft is in condition for safe flight and must discontinue the flight when un-airworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur".

Nurcahyo Utomo, head of the Indonesia transportation safety committee, said it's clear the aircraft shouldn't have been permitted to leave the tarmac.

Lemme said he was troubled that there weren't easy checks to see if sensor information was correct, that the crew of the fatal flight apparently wasn't warned about the problems on previous flights and that the Lion Air jet wasn't fully repaired after those flights.

Boeing's statement did not make any reference to a revised anti-stall system introduced on the 737 MAX which US pilots and Indonesian investigators say was missing from the operating manual. More than 200 MAX jets have been delivered to airlines around the world.

The company now faces lawsuits from victim's families, while Indonesian authorities will continue to work with USA agencies as part of an ongoing joint investigation.

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