The recovery effort is well underway, after debris and passengers’ belongings were found. (AP: Tatan Syuflana)
Lion Air says there is no reason for the public to be scared of flying in its planes, as it tries to work out why one of them crashed on Monday, killing all 198 people on board.
7.30 was given a tour of Lion Air’s Jakarta headquarters by the company’s managing director, Captain Daniel Adi, in the hope of assuring us — and their millions of passengers — that the airline is safe, despite this week’s disaster.
The airline has lost five planes in less than two decades.
Mr Adi said he trusted his engineers, his pilots and his planes, and did not know why Lion Air keeps crashing.
“These are the same questions with me. We have already tried to do our best to evaluate what happened,” he said.
“Now is the second time we’ve been audited by IOSA (International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit) and we’ve passed, so for sure, why we have to be scared or don’t want to fly with us? I don’t know. There is no reason for that.”
Simulation of what might have happened
Lion Air boss Daniel Adi (right) and flight instructor Captain Felix Kurniadi watch over a flight simulation. (ABC News: David Lipson)
7.30 was taken inside a high-tech cockpit simulator which was seeking to recreate the conditions that caused flight JT610 to crash into the Java Sea.
“We don’t know what happened exactly, but we will try this exercise,” instructor Captain Felix Kurniadi said.
Minutes after the simulated take-off there was an alarm. The pilot’s and co-pilot’s instruments were showing different measurements.
“You can see at this point, both of the air speed indicators are different,” the instructor explained.
“Number one is 274, second is 302 knots. So the malfunction is already happening and our crew is trying to solve the problem.”
The problem is significant. If the air-speed reading is not accurate, the autopilot — and its human master — have no way of ensuring the nose of the plane is pointed at the correct angle to keep it in the air.
In line with protocol, the co-pilot used an emergency instruction manual to read out the procedures, step by step, for the pilot to follow.
They managed to maintain altitude and the simulation ended with them landing safely back at Jakarta Airport.
This was only a rough estimation of the conditions that led to the crash. The real plane’s black box flight recorder has now been recovered and will be analysed to try to determine what actually happened.
‘Safety culture’ an issue, expert says
As a business, Lion Air is a major success story. After just 18 years it now controls 52 per cent of Indonesia’s domestic market, running 650 flights a day.
But its safety record has always been seen as a problem, despite a major investment in recent years to meet world standards.
Indonesia’s Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has stood down Lion Air’s technical director and increased random maintenance checks for the company.
The Minister is also considering more regulation, which is a sensitive issue.
After the 2015 Air Asia crash, Indonesia brought in tougher penalties for safety breaches. But the crackdown was said to have discouraged engineers from reporting problems. And according to aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman, the result was that the country’s aviation accident rate went up 80 per cent.
Mr Soejatman believes there is a much bigger issue at work — that Indonesia as a nation is simply not safety-conscious.
“When you work in an industry that requires a totally different safety culture, that does pose challenges,” he said.
Mr Sumadi told 7.30 that is not the case.
“The culture has improved, he said.
“In the end the boss is responsible for any non-performed work from that situation.”
Watch David Lipson’s story tonight on 7.30.