The unexplained crash of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 in Indonesia has raised concerns for other planes around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic. Though the 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 had been cleared to fly—with a certificate of airworthiness valid until Dec. 17, 2021, per the New York Times—the plane had sat unused in a hangar from March to December, when it was brought back into service. From Dec. 19, the plane flew 132 times, including four times on Saturday, per the Times. Its fifth flight of the day ended in the Java Sea, along with 62 lives. Noting this "mothballing" may have been a factor in the crash, which occurred during heavy rain, the Times suggests there could be trouble ahead for other airlines forced to sideline planes as a result of coronavirus restrictions and reduced air travel.
"While out of service for nine or 10 months, they need to be kept operating, otherwise they deteriorate," Hugh Ritchie, CEO of Australian air safety consulting firm Aviation Analysts International, tells the outlet. He argues something similar occurs with pilots who don't fly regularly. The pilot commanding Flight 182, Capt. Afwan, had spent much of 2020 in a flight simulator, per the Times. It's too soon to say whether a problem with the plane or pilot contributed to Saturday's crash. The plane's flight data recorder was recovered Tuesday, but the cockpit voice recorder, which separated from its underwater acoustic beacon, has yet to be found, per NBC News. A remotely operated underwater vehicle was searching Wednesday as human searchers were called out of the water due to poor weather conditions, per the Jakarta Post. (Read more plane crash stories.)