Indonesian lawmakers tell authorities to get tough on Lion Air, following fatal crash

Lion Air investigators examine part of the landing gear of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at the port in northern Jakarta on Nov 5, 2018.
Lion Air investigators examine part of the landing gear of the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 at the port in northern Jakarta on Nov 5, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Lawmakers on the House of Representatives Commission V overseeing transportation and infrastructure have called on the government to act firmly against private airline Lion Air Group following last month's deadly crash.

The Commission held a hearing on Thursday (Nov 22) on the crash, scrutinising relevant parties and the ongoing investigation process.

Lawmaker Bambang Haryo Soekartono of the Gerindra Party called on the government to revoke Lion Air Group's licence, citing its "proven poor safety track record".

"Lion (Air) has shown its poor commitment (to safety standards) and that could tarnish the image of our Transportation Ministry," Mr Bambang said.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Rendy Lamadjido also encouraged the ministry to impose stricter sanctions on the company, pointing out that the government had been lenient in monitoring pilots.

He also suggested that the ministry establish a council tasked with auditing and producing recommendations for all pilots in all airlines operating in the country.

"There are a lot of pilots who need to be evaluated. I suggest that we establish a council for pilots. When an incident occurs, the council should examine the pilots. This is for the sake of our safety," Mr Rendy said.

The hearing was attended by officials from the Transportation Ministry, National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) and the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT).

 
 
 

A representative of the KNKT revealed that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that was used on flight JT610 from Jakarta to Pangkalpinang, Bangka-Belitung Islands, which crashed into the Java Sea on Oct 29 killing all 189 people on board, had experienced recurring problems during its last few flights.

A preliminary investigation revealed that the plane had produced faulty airspeed readings during its last four flights.

The aircraft in question had only been in service with Lion Air since August.

"But the pilot who flew the airplane from Denpasar managed to handle it and was able to change to an anti-stall system," KNKT head Soerjanto Tjahjono said during the hearing.

"The pilot on the crashed plane might have failed to understand the problem. Each individual has different (reactions)," Mr Soerjanto said after the hearing.

The KNKT has also stated that Boeing failed to alert airlines and pilots about the system to prevent the aircraft from stalling.

Only after the crash did Boeing issue an operational manual bulletin that directs all airlines operating the Boeing 737 MAX to follow existing flight crew procedures to address circumstances where there is erroneous input from an angle of attack sensor.

The KNKT has also analysed the flight data recorder (FDR), which records variables like airspeed, altitude, heading and vertical acceleration, and found that from when the airplane began to stall until it crashed, the pilot attempted to trim it up, but he failed to reach the standard height.

The committee will announce the details of the analysis results next week, a month after the accident took place.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said his ministry had been conducting special and comprehensive examinations of a number of Lion Air aircraft.

To date, the authorities have yet to find the downed plane's cockpit voice recorder (CVR). The CVR records verbal communication between crew members within an aircraft's cockpit.

KNKT investigator Ony Soeryo Wibowo said the lack of advanced equipment had hampered the search team's efforts to cope with the thick mud under the surface.

"Sophisticated vessels (needed in the search efforts) are very expensive. We need a vessel that can remain stationary without anchoring. The existing equipment is not that advanced."