Boeing troubles could be ignited anew with troubled B-737 went down in Javan sea

More than 60 feared dead as Indonesian Boeing 737 crashes into the sea

Colin Freeman

Sat, January 9, 2021, 11:50 AM GMT+1

Indonesia plane crash LIVE: Boeing 737 vanishes carrying 62 people as  debris found – latest news and updates

Wreckage thought to have come from the plane

More than 60 people are feared dead after a plane crashed off the coast of Indonesia shortly after take-off on Saturday afternoon.

Flight SJ182 took off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and then plunged more than 10,000 feet into the sea. Officials said the plane was carrying 50 passengers – including ten children – and 12 crew.  On Saturday night, a large-scale search operation was underway to hunt for wreckage of the plane, which is sank in 30 metre- deep waters around the island of Lancang, part of the Thousand Islands chain just north of Jakarta.

The plane was heading on a 90-minute domestic flight to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island At the time of the crash, local fishermen spoke of hearing a thunderous explosion. When they reached the area, they discovered pieces of wreckage from the airliner. 

“The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water,” one fisherman told the BBC’s Indonesian service. “It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”

Body parts and pieces of passengers’ clothing were also floating in the water. Meanwhile, passengers’ relatives and next of kin gathered at Jakarta and Pontianak airports, many of them in tears.

Among those waiting at Pontianak Airport was father-of-three Yaman Zai, who had moved there from Jakarta for work last year. His wife and children, who had remained in Jakarta, were on the flight to meet him for a holiday, having not seen him for nearly a year because of the Covid lockdown.

“They are my wife and three children, including my newly born baby”, he told the local tribunnews.com. “My last contact was around 13:30 which my wife responded that the kids were so excited.”

He said he had arrived at the airport well in time for the flight’s arrival and then grown worried when there was no news of the plane landing. Eventually he saw TV reports that the plane had had gone missing. 

“Did I kill my family?” he asked. “I sent them here to get fun.”  

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, has a chequered record on transport safety, with numerous air and sea accidents over the years blamed on aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety rules. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air also crashed taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

The plane involved in Saturday’s crash was a Boeing 737-500 belonging to the Sriwijaya Air airline, a local discount carrier that flies to dozens of domestic and regional destinations.  After being delayed for an hour because of heavy rain, it took off at 2.36pm local time but then lost control with the airport control just four minutes later.

Air traffic control officials said that seconds before the plane disappeared, they had asked the pilot why it was heading northwest instead of on its expected flight path. A post on the Twitter feed of tracking service Flightradar24 said that Flight SJ182 “lost more than 10,000 feet of altitude in less than one minute, about 4 minutes after departure from Jakarta”.

Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 passenger plane feared to have crashed in Indonesia  - BBC News

Debris and clothing believed to be from the crash

An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash, which remained unclear as of last night.  Bambang Suryo Aji, the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency’s deputy head of operations, said no radio beacon signal had been detected from the plane.

He said his agency was investigating why its emergency locator transmitter was not transmitting a signal that could confirm whether it had crashed.

The Boeing 737-500 involved in Saturday’s incident was a 27-year-old model. It does not have the automated flight-control system that played a role in both the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in 2018, and another crash of a 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia five months later.

Those two crashes led to grounding worldwide of the Boeing MAX 8 fleet for 20 months. Sriwijaya Air, which was founded in 2003, has had a solid safety record until now. Flight experts said it was not unusual for 27-year-old planes to still be in use. 

But the crash may still raise fresh questions about the safety record of airlines in Indonesia, which saw another major air disaster in 2014, when an AirAsia aircraft crashed en route to Singapore, killing 162 people.  Between 2007 and 2018, Indonesian airlines were subject to an EU flight ban, which was lifted after safety standards were deemed to have improved

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