Lion Air exec suspended as searchers investigate pings

November 01, 2018
Lion Air
Photo: Lion Air

Heads have rolled over the loss of Lion Air Flight 610 as authorities attempt to zero in on pings they believe could be from the aircraft  “black box” recorders.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders will be crucial to determining what went wrong on the flight which crashed shortly after take-off on Monday with the loss of 189 lives.

CNN reported that Haryo Satmiko, the deputy director of the National Transport Safety Committee,  had confirmed the pings had been detected but investigators needed more “technical efforts” to find the exact location of recorders.

Meanwhile, Lion Air on Wednesday suspended its technical director on the instruction of the Indonesian Transport Ministry.

Muhammad Asif had been in the job less than a month and it was not clear if he would be reinstated if found not to be at fault in the crash.

“Today we will remove Lion Air’s technical director from his duties,” the airline said in the statement that also announced Muhammad Rusli had been appointed as acting technical director.

READ Australian government backflips on Lion Air Group travel advice.

Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said others who had recommended that the plane was fit to fly after it experienced problems on Sunday would also be suspended.

Nobody yet knows what happened to cause the recently delivered Boeing 737 MAX 8 to plunge into the sea at high speed just 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta.

It reached a maximum altitude of 5400ft before radar contact was lost.

The aircraft, which had just 800 flight hour on the clock, had behaved erratically the night before the doomed flight but had been cleared to operate the next day.

Passengers on the Sunday flight, JT043,  told of how a “roller coaster” ride prompted some to panic and vomit.

“About three to eight minutes after it took off, I felt like the plane was losing power and unable to rise. That happened several times,” passenger Alan Soetanto told TVOne. “We felt like in a roller coaster. Some passengers began to panic and vomit.”

The airline said the issues on Sunday were addressed in accordance with Boeing procedures.

At this stage, the spotlight is as much focussed on the new high-tech plane as it is on the airline.

There were reports the pilot asked to turn back shortly after take-off and flight tracking websites also recorded erratic speed and altitude readings.

Indonesia earlier this week ordered inspections of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft but has not prevented them from operating.

Search and rescue workers continued today to pick up wreckage and body parts as grieving relatives watched on.

Representatives from manufacturer Boeing are believed to have arrived at the scene.