Lion Air Crash updates: plane’s black box retrieved, company officials suspended

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Indonesia’s Kompas TV reported that the black box of downed Lion Air Flight JT-610 has been found and retrieved in the Java Sea by search teams. Meanwhile, several officials of the company have been suspended in the wake of Indonesia’s most severe flight disaster in the last 20 years.

Thirteen minutes after takeoff on Monday morning, October 29, the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet plunged into the sea, killing all 189 people on board. The reason for the accident is yet unknown, making the retrieval of the black box all the more important as it could provide clues to the cause of the accident.

A plane’s black box records conversations of pilots, as well a monitors the mechanical systems and electronics of each flight.

A diver named Hendra aboard search vessel Baruna Jaya told Metro TV, “We dug and we got the black box.” He reported that the orange-colored unit was intact.

The orange unit is most likely the flight data recorder, and search for the cockpit voice recorder has continued. Both units are commonly called black boxes.

Meanwhile, on November 1, Thursday, the transport ministry of Indonesia directed Lion Air to immediately suspend the company’s director of maintenance, managers in charge of quality control and fleet maintenance, as well as the engineer who cleared the plane for flight despite reported technical issues, in order to ensure an unhampered investigation. The licenses of all suspended employees had even frozen for 120 days.

On Wednesday, the ministry also ordered that an audit of Lion Air’s maintenance, repair and overhaul unit be performed.
Indonesia’s government has promised that “strict sanctions” would be imposed on Lion Air should the investigation from the safety board prove that there was negligence on the company’s part.

In recent years, Indonesia’s domestic airline market expanded quickly, becoming the fifth biggest all over the globe. Between 2005 and 2017, local Airlie traffic grew to 97 million, which is more than triple its size.

The fast pace of expansion may have led to Lion Air’s safety issues. However, the country’s terrain, thunderstorms and underdeveloped infrastructure also posed challenges to airline safety.

Rusdi Kirana, the firm’s owner, has said that it is too early to pinpoint what exactly caused the tragic accident, which has led to questions regarding the safety record of Lion Air, which was forbidden to fly over Europe and the United States for nine years, from 2007 to 2016.

Read related: Lion Air’s sketchy safety record: 15 incidents since 2002

The accident was the first of its kind for Boeing’s 737 Max 8, which was only a few months old and had logged a mere 800 hours of flight time. However, this particular plane had reported problems regarding its sensors for calculating airspeed and altitude.