Tag: crash

Lion air crash: Third pilot was on plane’s next-to-last flight

A third pilot was on a Lion Air flight that encountered technical problems the night before the same plane crashed into the sea on October 29, Indonesia crash investigators said Thursday. 

A different crew piloted the Boeing 737 Max 8 on its fatal last flight and was unable to fix reportedly similar problems, causing the plane to plummet into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.   

“It is true there was another pilot in the cockpit during the flight [from Bali to Jakarta],” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT). 

The third pilot was an off-duty staffer who was returning from Bali to Jakarta and was qualified to fly the Max 8. 

“The pilot has been interviewed by KNKT but we will not disclose the content of the interview,” Soerjanto said. 

The news agency Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources, that the extra pilot correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane.

The off-duty pilot told the crew to cut power to the motor in the trim system that was driving the nose down, the report said.

A preliminary report on the accident released in November revealed that the pilots of the doomed flight tried to pull the aircraft back up repeatedly as the aircraft’s automatic nose-down manoeuvre was activated. 

Investigators have focused on the role of a new feature in the Boeing aircraft, known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), in the crash.

The system has been installed by Boeing on its latest generation of 737 to prevent the plane’s nose from getting too high and causing the aircraft to stall.

But in the fatal incident last month, it appeared to have forced the nose down after receiving erroneous information from sensors.

On March 10, a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Air crashed, killing all 157 people on board. There are concerns that a similar malfunction may have caused the crash.

Tjahjono declined to comment on remarks by Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges that there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.

“If there’s a new development and KNKT has access to information on the ET302 accident, we will look into and analyse it thoroughly to complement our investigation into the Lion Air crash,” he said. 

Tjahjono also denied that KNKT had leaked the contents of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), after Reuters reported quoting anonymous sources that the pilots scrambled through the handbook to save the aircraft.

“They are not the same as the contents of the CVR. The accounts are someone else’s opinion,” he said.

Another KNKT investigator, Nurcahyo Utomo, said: “Based on the CVR, we can assume that for the most part of the flight, they were calm.”

“In the last few seconds of the flight, it seemd they panicked after they realized they could not recover the aircraft,” he added. 

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Death toll climbs to 142 in Hercules plane crash

At least 142 people were confirmed dead after a military plane crashed into residential area in Medan just two minutes after take-off, hospital staff said Wednesday.

The Hercules C-130 aircraft ploughed into houses and commercial buildings on Tuesday after taking off from the Soewondo airbase in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, officials said.

More than 30 of 142 bodies taken to Adam Malik hospital had been identified and were being handed over to their families, said hospital spokeswoman Sairi Saragih.

Armed forces spokesman Fuad Basya said earlier that eight bodies were of victims on the ground or in buildings.

Workers cleared the crash site and cut large pieces of the plane’s fuselage among destroyed houses and rubble in the streets.

The pilot had made a request to return to base moments before it went down, likely because of engine trouble, military officials said.

The aircraft was carrying 113 people when it left Jakarta, including personnel and their relatives, but some may have got off or on the plane after stopovers in Pekanbaru, Dumai and Medan, Air Force chief Air Marshal Agus Supriatna said Tuesday.

The military said the plane was 51 years old but insisted it was airworthy.

Agus said Tuesday that all B-model C-130s, which were produced in the early 1960s, would be grounded pending an investigation into the crash.

The crashed plane was one of 28 Lockheed C-130 cargo aircraft of different models and ages operated by the military.

The accident has put a spotlight on Indonesia’s poor aviation safety record and ageing military hardware after a 2009 crash involving a C-130 aircraft in East Java province killed at least 98 people.

President Joko Widodo urged a “thorough” investigation into the accident.

“I ask the minister of defence and the armed forces chief to embark on a comprehensive overhaul of the management of military equipment,” Joko said Wednesday.

“We don’t just buy. We have to modernize,” he said.

Since the resignation of the late president  Soeharto in 1998, the TNI has undergone reforms, but efforts to modernize it were hampered by budget constraints after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Jokowi’s predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched an ambitious plan to renew old defence equipment, with a defence budget of 156 trillion rupiah (11.7 billion dollars) earmarked for the 2011-14 period.

The government laid out plans to buy modern fighter aircraft, submarines and tanks, and enter into joint ventures with foreign defence companies for local production of weaponry.

Armed forces spokesman Fuad Basya said Indonesia is diversifying the sources of its defence hardware, buying from countries such as Germany, Brazil, Serbia and Russia.

So far the military has achieved only 38 per cent of its “minimum essential force” goal, Fuad said.

“We are happy to hear the president’s commitment and we hope his ministries can realize it,” he said. “The economic situation should not be an obstacle if the government has the commitment.”

Evan Laksmana, a military observer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, questioned whether the aircraft was fit enough to carry more than 100 passengers with cargo.

“While the Hercules C-130 can theoretically carry up to 42,000 pounds (19,050 kilograms), many consider 100 passengers to be too many for an ageing aircraft,” said

“The Hercules C-130 fleet is ageing, what sort of maintenance policies are in place and are they strictly enforced?” he said

Evan said maintenance is not less important than modernization.

“Procuring advanced platforms is one thing, but budget and planning rarely go into maintenance,” he said.

“As most of our military casualties result from aircraft-related accidents, why is the Air Force still seen as a step-brother among the services?” he said.

Jokowi has been publicly criticized for breaking the tradition of rotating the post of military chief by appointing an army general instead of the Air Force chief, who was supposed to be the next in line for the job.

Meto TV reported that relatives of the victims claimed their loved ones had paid to fly aboard the crashed plane, raising questions about whether the crew had breached safety regulations by selling space to civilians on the aircraft.

Fuad said the military was investigating the allegations, but insisted that those on board were military personnel and their families.

He also dismissed concerns about the age of the aircraft, saying it had not reached the end of its service life.

“Planes are not like human beings,” he said. “If a Hercules’ engine is broken and then replaced it can be like new again.”