Investigators are on site after a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft operated by low-fare carrier Lion Air crashed shortly after take-off in Indonesia, killing 189 passengers and crew.
Flight JT 610, registration PK-LQP, took off on Monday morning from Jakarta headed for Pangkal Pinang in the Bangka Belitung Islands. The new MAX 8 had only been in operation with Lion Air since 15 August, and is the first MAX to be involved in a crash. There were no survivors.
The aircraft, MSN 43000, was leased to Lion Air by CMIG Aviation Capital, an aircraft leasing company based in Tianjin, China and wholly owned by China Minsheng Investment Group. The aircraft was part of a multiple aircraft transaction by the lessor, which has a portfolio of 21 aircraft on long-term lease to 15 airlines.
A statement from aircraft manufacturer Boeing said: “The Indonesia Ministry of Transportation has confirmed it has located the wreckage of Lion Air Flight JT 610, a 737 MAX 8 en route from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang. The Boeing Company is deeply saddened by the loss of Flight JT 610. We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones.
“Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation. In accordance with international protocol, all inquiries about aviation accident investigations must be directed to the Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC).”
Lion Air has, at this stage, not grounded its remaining MAX 8s while the immediate investigation into the cause of the tragedy continues. That includes the search for the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.
The aircraft, powered by two CFM LEAP-1B engines, lost contact with air traffic control 13 minutes after take-off, and came down in waters about 15 km north of the coast of Java. The pilot had asked to turn back to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport shortly before losing contact, according to a spokesman for Indonesia’s air navigation authorities, reported Reuters.
Data from flight tracking service FlightRadar24 showed that after two minutes into its flight the aircraft descended more than 500 feet before climbing again to 5,000 feet, where it stayed until it suddenly began a sharp descent.
Lion Air, founded in 1999, has so far received 11 MAX 8 aircraft and its subsidiary Malindo Air was the launch carrier for the aircraft type last year. The aircraft that went down had passed 800 hours of flying time, it said. The airline is the largest domestic Indonesian carrier.
Edward Sirait, chief executive of the Lion Air Group, told reporters the aircraft had a technical problem on a prior flight from Bali to Jakarta but that it had been “resolved according to procedure,” according to Reuters. Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of its other aircraft of that model had the same problem.
Indonesian officials say they will not speculate on the cause of the crash until the recorders are found. The Emergency Local Transmitter beacon on the aircraft also did not emit a distress signal, it is reported.
Earlier this year Lion Air committed to an order for 50 MAX 10 aircraft, and also received the first of its MAX 9 aircraft also on order.
Indonesia’s domestic airline market has been booming in recent years to become the world’s fifth largest, with domestic traffic more than tripling between 2005 and 2017 to an estimated 97 million.