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Growing questions raised about Lion Air plane's previous flight

Sydney Morning Herald - October 30, 2018

James Massola, Karuni Rompies & Amilia Rosa, Jakarta The Lion Air flight that crashed into the ocean on Monday, killing 189 people, had suffered problems on the previous day's flight according to technical data.

The Aviation-safety.net website is reporting that data sent from the plane and captured by flight tracking websites Flightradar24 and Flightaware before the plane crashed on Monday "showed erratic values".

The flight lost and then regained altitude more than once before it crashed, according to the data, and something similar occurred on its previous flight from Denpasar to Jakarta on Sunday as the plane "showed similar erratic values in altitude and airspeed immediately after take off".

Gerry Soejatman, an aviation analyst from the Indonesian Aviation Network, confirmed the data had been sent by the Lion Air plane to the flight tracking websites and that it showed "the plane had a technical problem, but that's all we can tell. What it is we can only guess".

"We suspect that it is the Pitot static system, but this is just a guess based on the data," he said.

"We know for certain that that is the data the aeroplane transmitted, whether the data is accurate or not, we need to have a deeper look at it. The ground speed that it shows is accurate. Altitude is subject to further analysis. If there is a problem with the Pitot static steam, the altitude may be erroneous.

"I've seen the Sunday data, it does show a similar kind of problem but again, the airline did say it had technical problems on that flight and it was rectified."

The BBC is also reporting that a technical log from a flight the plane took on Sunday indicated an instrument was "unreliable".

Fairfax Media has obtained a copy of the alleged technical log for the plane's Sunday flight, but has not been able to verify its authenticity. Lion Air has not responded to a series of questions about the logs sent by Fairfax Media.

Mr Soejatman said he had also seen the log in question and it appeared to be legitimate, though he could not say so definitively.

On Monday, Lion Air chief executive Edward Sirait said the plane had had an unspecified "technical issue" on Sunday but that this issue had been resolved.

"If the plane was broken it would have been impossible to clear the plane to fly from Denpasar [in Bali, to Jakarta]... when we received the flight crew's report, we immediately fixed the problem."

The plane that crashed, a Boeing 737 Max 8, was practically new and had only been in service since August. The two pilots had about 11,000 hours of flying time between them.

A total of 189 people, including one child and two babies, were on the plane when it crashed into the ocean about 35 nautical miles north-west of Jakarta early on Monday morning.

Ten bodies have so far been collected from the crashed plane, while another 14 body bags some containing human body parts, and others containing debris from the crash have been retrieved from the crash site.

Basarnas (Indonesia's search and rescue agency) chief Muhammad Syaugi said early on Tuesday morning that "we have handed the ten body bags to police for identification. We are working 24 hours a day, except the diver teams," he said.

"We are also using a beam system [sonar] that can detect the presence of an object under water. We hope to find the body of the plane. We hope when we find it, the black box is not far from it. We hope to find more [bodies] today."

Mr Syaugi ducked questions about technical problems with the plane, stating that area of the investigation was "not my responsibility".

A total of about 300 workers, including 50 divers, are working on the retrieval operation on Tuesday, which is focused on finding the fuselage of the plane. A robot underwater vehicle has also been deployed.

Both Basarnas and Indonesian police will provide further updates on the search for the plane later on Tuesday.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/growing-questions-raised-about-lion-air-plane-s-previous-flight-20181030-p50cv2.html.

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