Lion Air: Official denies claims pilot had asked to turn doomed plane back on previous flight
Navy personnel carry a recovered part of the Lion Air jet onto a ship at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta. (AP: Tatan Syuflana)
An airport official in Bali has contradicted claims that the pilot of a Lion Air plane had asked to return to base on a previous flight the day before it crashed, killing 189 people on board.
- A pilot was quoted as saying he was asked to hold off landing because the Lion Air flight needed to return to Bali
- But an airport official has denied there was any request for the plane to return to base
- He acknowledged there were technical problems, but said they were checked in Jakarta after the plane landed
Reuters news agency earlier quoted another pilot who claimed he was asked to hold off landing on Sunday because the Lion Air flight to Jakarta had technical problems and needed to return to Bali.
He reportedly told Reuters: “The Lion plane requested to return back to Bali five minutes after take-off, but then the pilot said the problem had been resolved and he was going to go ahead to Jakarta.”
But Herson, chief of the airport authority for the Bali-Nusa Tenggara area, denied there was any request for the Lion Air plane to return to base.
He told the ABC there were technical problems that were later dealt with in Jakarta, when the plane landed on Sunday night. But at no time did the Lion Air pilot seek permission to return to Bali.
Air Navigation officials in Jakarta said the Lion Air pilot requested a change of altitude and asked for a “priority landing” in Jakarta, because of technical problems. In response they said they prepared “Runway 25” in Jakarta for the plane to land.
But they too said there was no request for the plane to return to Bali, nor were any planes in Bali asked to stay in a holding pattern. Instead, planes were asked to circle in Jakarta until the plane landed.
Herson said Reuters wrongly quoted him as saying the Lion Air plane had sought to return to Bali. But he acknowledged the plane’s technical problems and said they were checked in Jakarta after it landed about 11:00pm, and the plane was deemed safe to fly the next morning.
A family member cries at the funeral of a passenger of Lion Air flight JT610. (Reuters: Sigit Pamungkas)
But Reuters defended its reporting, and Jakarta correspondent Fanny Potkin said multiple sources were cited for the story.
Less than eight hours later the same Boeing 737 MAX jet took off for Bangka island, off Sumatra, but crashed within 13 minutes of take off, and plunged into the Java Sea.
Just before the crash, the pilot had made a request to return to Jakarta’s main airport.
Lion Air has declined to comment about the earlier flight from Bali, citing the ongoing crash investigation.
The budget airline’s head, Edward Sirait, said earlier this week that a technical problem had occurred on the Denpasar-Jakarta flight but it had been resolved “according to procedure“.
The crash was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia in more than two decades and renewed concerns about safety in its fast-growing aviation industry, which was recently removed from European Union and US blacklists.
The crash was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia in more than two decades. (AP: Tatan Syuflana)
Investigators probe flight memory unit
Indonesian officials have said that an essential memory unit found on Thursday could hold important data about the cause of the fatal crash.
Divers recovered the Crash Survivable Memory Unit, which provides a crucial development in the investigation into what caused the two-month-old plane to plunge into the ocean earlier this week.
National Transportation Safety Committee investigator Ony Soeryo Wibowo addressed media in Jakarta following the discovery, explaining that the particular piece of equipment was not recovered in its entirety.
However, he said that what they had managed to recover was associated with either the flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder and contained “very important” data.
“It’s very important, the data stored here, but we don’t know yet what [it is]. Whether it is [the] flight data recorder or [the] cockpit voice recorder,” he said.
The discovery followed the recovery of one of the two black boxes from the doomed plane, which was found in mud on the sea floor among other debris.
Navy personnel show a recovered flight data recorder of the Lion Air jet. (AP: Binsar Bakkara)
Haryo Satmiko, deputy chief of Indonesia’s transportation safety committee, told a media conference that the extent of damage to the device showed the “extraordinary impact” of the crash.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed early on Monday just minutes after take-off from the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
The plane’s black boxes are expected to help explain why the almost-new Boeing jet went down in waters about 35 metres deep in the Java Sea.
Indonesian navy frogmen try to retrieve debris from the water during a search operation. (AP: Tatan Syuflana)
The same jet crashed on another flight hours later, killing all 189 people on board. (AP: Fauzy Chaniago)