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'You Could Feel the Explosion': Latest on Indonesia Crash

The jet that went down was brand-new
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2018 3:16 PM CDT

(Newser) – One of the biggest questions in the wake of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia that may have killed all 181 passengers and eight crew members is why a brand-new plane would crash. The type of plane used in Flight JT 610, the Boeing 737 MAX 8, has only been in commercial use since last year, and this is the first major accident involving that type of plane, the BBC reports. Lion Air was the first carrier in Indonesia to start using the plane, and the specific one that crashed had only been in use since Aug. 15 and had logged just 800 hours of flight time. Though older planes are typically more at risk for accidents, an aviation analyst explains to the BBC that if a plane is "very new, there are sometimes snags that only reveal themselves after they are [used routinely]. These usually get sorted [within] the first three months." But another analyst wasn't so sure, and added, "I don't know what would make a plane this new crash." More of the latest:

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  • More on the plane: The 737 MAX series, introduced in 2011, is a new model of Boeing's best-selling 737, CNBC reports; the planes have more fuel efficiency and quieter engines. The 737 MAX 8 is the most recent model. Southwest and American also fly the 737 MAX 8, which is the fastest-selling plane in Boeing's history. It has racked up nearly 4,700 orders.
  • Statement from Boeing: The company, whose shares were down more than 3% in afternoon trading, says it "stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation. We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones."
  • So what might have happened? One of the analysts who spoke to the BBC said it was likely a technical problem of some kind, though human error or other factors could also have played a role. Shortly after taking off from Jakarta, the pilot radioed air traffic control reporting technical problems; he was given permission to turn back. He did not report an emergency, per CNN. Data from flight-tracking site FlightRadar24 shows that the plane reached 2,000 feet about two minutes into the flight, then dropped more than 500 feet and veered to the left. It started climbing again and got to its highest altitude of 5,000 feet. In the final moments before data was lost at an altitude of 3,650 feet, it gained speed. The plane crashed into the sea 13 minutes after taking off.
  • Previous issue: Lion Air's CEO said that on the plane's previous flight, from Bali to Jakarta Sunday night, it experienced an unspecified "technical issue" that was "resolved according to procedure."

  • The investigation: Wreckage of the twin-engine, narrow-body plane has been detected; investigators will look for voice and data recorders as they seek to determine what went wrong. Investigators from two US agencies, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, are heading to Indonesia to assist Indonesian transportation and safety officials.
  • Survivors? The spokersperson of Indonesia's national search and rescue agency says all 189 people on board, which included three children, are presumed dead. At least 10 bodies have been recovered so far. If all 189 are dead, the crash will be Indonesia's second-worst air disaster since 1997, per Reuters. Family members have gathered at the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency headquarters in Jakarta as well as at Pangkal Pinang airport, the flight's intended destination, to await news, Sky News reports.
  • Safety record: Reuters calls Indonesia's aviation safety record "patchy." Quartz says the crash "is a throwback to Indonesia's scary aviation record," noting that it was only in June that the country saw all of its airlines removed from the European Union's safety blacklist. Lion Air itself, a budget airline, has a less than stellar safety record, with at least a dozen incidents or accidents since 2002, though no fatalities since 2004. As Business Insider notes, one of those accidents involved another flight that crashed into the sea—but in that 2013 incident, everyone survived.
  • Witnesses: Two men were fishing near where the plane entered the water, about 9 miles off the coast. "You could feel the explosion from the shockwave in the water," one of them says, per Reuters. They say the weather was clear. The crew of a nearby tugboat also says they saw a plane fall from the sky into water estimated to be 98 to 131 feet deep.
(What we learned from a near-miss that could have been the worst crash in history.)

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