Investigators revealed more information about the “technical problem” a Lion Air jet experienced on other flights before it crashed in Indonesia Oct. 29, killing all 189 people aboard.
Indonesian government officials said in an emotional news conference Nov. 5 that the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet had been experiencing problems with is airspeed indicator on the doomed flight and that the instrument had malfunctioned on the three flights preceding the Oct. 29 crash.
Those previous Lion Air flights landed safely but passengers on a flight from Bali to Jakarta, which landed just hours before the flight that crashed, said the plane was making strange noises and flying erratically. Some expressed fear for their lives.
During the Oct. 28 Lion Air flight from Bali to Jakarta, pilots reported trouble calculating airspeed, and flight data shows the plane flew with irregular speed and altitude during the first 11 minutes of the flight. One passenger on that flight told reporters that it felt like a roller coaster.
Additional data from the Lion Air plane’s flight recorder showed that the same problems plagued the two flights before the Bali to Jakarta flight on Oct. 28.
“Investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said investigators need to review maintenance records, including what problems were reported, what repairs were done including whether components were replaced, and how the repairs were tested before the 2-month-old plane was declared airworthy,” the Associated Press reported.
Mr. Utomo said investigators are trying to determine whether the problem stemmed from the instrument itself, a measuring device or sensor, or a computer glitch.
According to NPR, airspeed indicators have factored into other high-profile airplane crashes in the past, including an Aeroperu crash near Lima in 1996 that killed 70 people and a Turkish airplane that crashed earlier the same year killing 189. Both of those crashes occurred shortly after takeoff, and evidence showed the pilots were confused by the conflicting instrument readings.