An Indonesian Lion Air plane that crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Jakarta on Monday had a technical problem on a previous flight, but it had been resolved according to procedure, the company’s chief executive said. “This plane previously flew from Denpasar to Cengkareng (Jakarta). There was a report of a technical issue which had been resolved according to procedure,” Edward Sirait told reporters, declining to specify the nature of the technical issue.
He said Lion has operated 11 aircraft of the same model, the Boeing 737 Max 8, and the other planes did not have the same technical problem. Sirait said there was no plan to ground the rest of its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet.
The aircraft carrying 189 people on board is believed to have sunk after crashing into the sea off Indonesia’s island of Java on Monday, soon after takeoff from the capital, headed for a key tin-mining region, officials said. Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed the crash of Lion Air flight, JT610, adding that it lost contact with ground officials 13 minutes after takeoff, and a tug boat leaving the capital’s port saw it fall.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter. “We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.” He said that items such as handphones and life vests were found in waters about 30 metres to 35 metres (98 to 115 ft) deep near where the plane, identified by air tracking service Flightradar 24 as a Boeing 737 MAX 8, lost contact.
“We are there already, our vessels, our helicopter is hovering above the waters, to assist,” Syaugi said. “We are trying to dive down to find the wreck.” At least 23 government officials were aboard the plane, which an air navigation spokesman said had sought to turn back just before losing contact.
“We don’t dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet,” Edward Sirait, the chief executive of Lion Air Group, told Reuters. “We are also confused about the why, since it was a new plane.” In a statement, the privately owned airline said the aircraft, which had only been operated since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.