JAKARTA • The cockpit voice recorder from a Lion Air jet that crashed last October has been recovered, officials said yesterday, a discovery that could be critical to explaining why a brand-new plane fell out of the sky just after take-off.
The Boeing 737 Max vanished from radar about 13 minutes after departing Jakarta, slamming into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. Moments earlier, the pilots had asked to return to Soekarno-Hatta Airport.
The bright orange voice recorder was discovered early yesterday (Jan 14) about 10m from a flight data recorder that was located in November, the authorities said.
"It's broken into two pieces so hopefully it's still useful" to investigators, Mr Haryo Satmiko, deputy head of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
More human remains were also found near the voice recorder, he added, without giving details.
"This will really help the investigation... and could give some more answers on the cause" of the crash, said Jakarta-based aviation analyst Dudi Sudibyo.
The airliner's flight data recorder supplied information about its speed, altitude and direction before it plunged into the sea on Oct 29.
"But (the data recorder) does not show how the flight crew's decisions were made or discussed in those final moments," Leeds University aviation expert Stephen Wright told AFP.
A preliminary crash report from Indonesia's transport safety agency suggested that the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 struggled to control the plane's anti-stall system just before the accident.
The agency also found that the Lion Air jet should have been grounded over a recurrent technical problem and criticised the budget carrier's poor safety culture. But it did not pinpoint a definitive cause of the crash.
The authorities called off the grim task of identifying victims of the crash in November, with only 125 people named after tests on human remains that filled some 200 body bags.
"We're thankful and grateful that they have found the CVR (cockpit voice recorder), but it's not enough," said parent Evi Samsul Komar, whose son and nephew were on the flight.
"There are still many passengers unaccounted for."
Nearly 30 relatives of the Lion Air crash victims are suing Boeing, alleging that faults in the plane led to the deaths.
The Max variant of the 737 is one of the world's newest and most advanced commercial passenger jets.
After investigators said the doomed aircraft had problems with its airspeed indicator and angle of attack (AOA) sensors, Boeing issued a special bulletin telling operators what to do when they face the same situation.
An AOA sensor provides data about the angle at which air passes over the wings and tells pilots how much lift a plane is getting. The information can be critical in preventing an aircraft from stalling.
The Lion Air 737's flight data recorder showed pilots had repeatedly tried to correct its nose from pointing down, possibly after erroneous data from AOA sensors was fed into a system that automatically adjusts some of its movements.
The preliminary crash report stopped short of making any recommendations to Boeing, but the American aviation giant has come under fire for possible glitches on the 737 Max, which entered service in 2017.