Indonesian navy divers retrieved one of the black boxes from the Sriwijaya Air Boeing Co. jet that crashed into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on Saturday afternoon, an important step in the discovery that caused the plane to crash with 62 people.
Black boxes are crucial for understanding what happened because they pick up noise in the cockpit and monitor flight data. The plane in this case was an almost 27-year-old Boeing 737-500, not the much newer 737 Max that just emerged after being grounded for 20 months. It was banned worldwide after two crashes, including a Lion Air flight in October 2018 that also plummeted in Indonesia's Java Sea.
Investigation teams picked up the flight data recorder on Tuesday and are trying to obtain the other box soon, military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said in a press conference. Their locator beacons were detected shortly after the crash and attempts to collect the flight recorders were hampered by muddy water and debris from the jet scattered into the sea. The beacons on both boxes had become detached from the force of the impact.
Indonesia is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, but also has one of the worst safety records. The country's planes were blocked by the European Union in 2007 due to safety concerns. The ban was only lifted completely in 2018.
The black boxes provide more information about what caused the plane to plunge over 10,000 feet in seconds. Both pilots in command of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 were experienced and the airline has a solid safety record with no fatalities since its inception in 2003. The 737-500 model itself also has a good safety record.
Representatives from Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board will be leaving for Jakarta this week to assist with the investigation, said a person familiar with the case, who asks not to be named because the case is private. The Indonesian government has granted them an exemption from entering the country during the travel ban due to the corona virus.
Human remains collected at the crash site have been handed over for identification, along with 30 bags containing parts of the plane, search and rescue director Rasman MS said at a briefing Tuesday. One victim was identified as Okky Bisma, 29. Seven children and three babies were among the passengers.
Flight 182 was delayed 56 minutes in Jakarta when heavy rains hit the Indonesian capital, according to FlightRadar24. According to the official weather report from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport about 10 minutes before the crash, there was light rain with a cloud ceiling from 1800 feet. The weather has played a role in several crashes in Indonesia.
Preliminary data suggests the pilots may have been disoriented, at least in part because of the bad weather, aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman said. Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group said it was unlikely that the cause was a flaw in the aircraft's design, given the 737-500's long service life.
Sriwijaya Air started as an airline with only one Boeing 737-200 flying short routes from Jakarta. It now flies over the Indonesian archipelago and internationally to Timor-Leste and Penang in Malaysia. Flight 182 went to Pontianak on the island of Borneo.
Indonesia's national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia briefly took over the activities of Sriwijaya Air and its NAM Air unit in 2018 when the airline restructured its debts. Garuda also performed maintenance at the time, which is now performed by engineers from Indonesia and abroad.
Indonesia, with a population of approximately 270 million people spread across thousands of islands, is the fifth largest aviation market in the world in terms of planned capacity, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide. The coronavirus pandemic has put pressure on the country's airlines, as with others around the world, and domestic seating capacity is still 32% below pre-covid levels, OAG said.
–With the help of Julie Johnsson and Harry Suhartono.
Copyright 2021 Bloomberg.
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