Southeast Asia

Speculation grows over the causes of Lion Air crash

“As the aircraft was preparing for takeoff, the engine died several times” – Passenger on the same 737 Max 8 plane the day before on a flight to Bali.

In the wake of yesterday’s fatal crash of a brand new Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, speculation has begun to try and imagine what could have happened to the plane. According to data available the plane ended up in a steep nosedive before crashing into the sea just 13 minutes after a routine take-0ff from Jakarta.

Although pieces of the plane, passengers’ personal belongings and at least six bodies have now been recovered from the seas to the north of Java island, it remains unclear about the circumstances surrounding the flight’s crash.

Aviation officials are keen to get their hands on the plane’s ‘black box’ which records conversations in the cockpit and crucial flight data from the planes flight systems. This will likely reveal the true cause of the crash.

Here’s what we currently know…

• The aircraft, a Boeing 737 Max 8 that was delivered to Lion Air in August, just eight weeks ago.

• It departed just after dawn yesterday (Monday) from Jakarta airport’s runway 25L for Pangkal Pinang, a routine 1 hour and 10 minute flight.

• About three minutes after take-off, whilst in a steep left turn climb-out, JT610 stopped further climbing at an estimated altitude of about 5,300 ft and stayed at that approximate altitude on a heading of about 020 degrees.

• During this time, according to air traffic control, the pilots asked to return to Jakarta Airport.

• Data from FlightRadar24 shows that aircraft’s altitude ‘bounced’ between about 4,000-5,000 feet.

• Eleven minutes into the flight, the aircraft sent its last radar ‘ping’ at an altitude of 3,650 feet, in a ‘gradual descent’.

• In the last minute the publicly available data shows the plane plummeting into the ea at 7,688 feet per minute.

Speculation has begun over what may have been behind the plane dropping out of the sky, apparently in perfect flying conditions.

Author of The Crash Detectives Christine Negroni says, “These pilots never got higher than about 5,000 feet.”

She notes that Flight JT 610’s data was irregular from the start.

“While it’s too early to know anything for sure, the pilots could have had issues with the aircraft pitot tubes, which track an aircraft’s speed and altitude, or other software problems that gave the pilots bad information, based on the preliminary findings and information available.”

An Indonesian aviation expert Gerry Soejatman reported in The New York Times that he also suspects the pitot tubes could be to blame for downing the Lion Air flight.

“The erratic flight path makes us suspect a problem with the pitot-static system,” he said.

Lion Air pilots reported a technical problem with the same plane just the day before yesterday’s fatal crash. The airline claims it resolved the unnamed issue and the plane declared airworthy for yesterday’s flight “according to procedure.”

But Soejatman has gone through publicly available flight data and says, “a similar erratic climb and groundspeed problem showing that the pitot tubes could have also been a problem on Sunday.”

A passenger from a Sunday Lion Air flight in the same plane, to Bali, is quoted as saying that there were several “oddities” with the plane during the flight.

“As the aircraft was preparing for takeoff, the engine died several times.”

Conchita Caroline told the Times that when the plane finally did takeoff, the floor felt hot to the touch, and she could see the right engine shaking out of her window.

As the speculation continues and amateur aviation sleuths come up with their own theories, based on the publicly-known information, more information will surface in coming day.

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