Early Monday morning local time, Lion Air Flight 610 lost contact with local air traffic control and crashed into the Java Sea close to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. Flight JT610, which was traveling from Jakarta (CGK) to nearby Pangkal Pinang (PGK) — a 275-mile journey — crashed into the sea just 13 minutes after takeoff.
The aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 (registration PK-LQP), was carrying 189 people, including one child and two infants. Of the people on board, 181 were passengers, six were cabin crew and two were pilots, according to Basarnas, Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency.
While the search for the aircraft, as well as the investigation, are still underway, here’s what we know so far about the disappearance of Lion Air Flight 610:
Six Bodies Have Been Found
As of 8:30am ET, rescue workers have retrieved six bodies from the site where the aircraft is thought to have crashed. The recovered bodies have been taken to a hospital in east Jakarta, said Bamband Suryo Aji, director of operations for Basarnas.
Also as of Monday morning ET, the main wreckage of the Lion Air 737 MAX 8 has yet to be found. However, Aji told a news conference that rescue workers found debris, believed to be the aircraft’s tail. The search and rescue teams are using underwater robots to help search for the main fuselage of the aircraft, an area spanning 150 nautical miles, an effort being challenged by high waves and strong currents.
Handbags, wallets, cellphones and clothing were among the debris located by rescuers in the vicinity of the crash. The Emergency Locator Transmitter of the aircraft is not currently transmitting, according to authorities.
There’s no information at this point about what caused PK-LQP to crash, though CNN reports that it’s unlikely weather played a part. The head of Basarnas said the search and rescue efforts will operate 24 hours per day.
Staff Reported Problems With the Aircraft the Night Before
According to Lion Air CEO Edward Sirait, the aircraft reported problems the night before on a flight from Denpasar (DPS) to Jakarta (CGK). Siriat told local media TV1 in an interview that engineers had checked the reported problem with PK-LQP and repaired the problem, declaring the aircraft ready to fly.
Sirait said the plane was “airworthy,” and that the pilots had carried out required preflight inspections.
According to Yohanes Sirait, a spokesperson for AirNav Indonesia, the agency that oversees the country’s air traffic navigation, pilots made a request to local air traffic controllers to return to Jakarta about 12 miles after takeoff, however, they didn’t indicate that there was an emergency situation. While the aircraft would have gotten priority clearance to land had it indicated an emergency, air traffic controllers lost contact with pilots shortly after their initial request. According to radar, the aircraft made no attempt to turn around.
According to a statement posted by Lion Air, Bhavye Suneja, the captain of the plane, had more than 6,000 flight hours. His copilot, Harvino — who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name — logged more than 5,000 flight hours. Both pilots had passed mandatory drug screening, according to Sirait.
20 Ministry Officials on Board
Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said Monday that 20 ministry officials were on board Lion Air Flight 610. The officials were returning to their posts in Pangal Pinang after spending the weekend with family in Jakarta, Indrawati said.
Since the crash, the Australian government has issued an instruction, advising officials and other government employees to not fly with Lion Air until further notice.
“Following the fatal crash of a Lion Air plane on 29 October 2018, Australian government officials and contractors have been instructed not to fly on Lion Air,” a statement on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website read. “This decision will be reviewed when the findings of the crash investigation are clear.”
Lion Air was added to the EU’s list of banned airlines in July 2007, and removed from the list in June 2016, according to the Aviation Safety Network.
The Aircraft Was Brand New
PK-LQP was delivered to Lion Air on Aug. 13, 2018, making it just more than two months old. According to the National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC), the aircraft had only flown 800 hours.
Since the crash, Boeing released a statement, saying that it was “deeply saddened” by the news of JT610’s crash. The company offered its “heartfelt sympathies” to passengers and crew on board, as well as their families.
The crash marks the first total loss of a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, however, it’s not the first 737 to experience issues this year. Earlier this year, a Pegasus Airlines 737-800 veered off the runway in Trabzon, Turkey (TZX), though there were no fatalities or serious injuries. Also earlier this year, more than 100 were confirmed dead when a Global Air 737-200 crashed shortly after takeoff in Havana, Cuba (HAV).
At this time, we also know that Lion Air is flying the family members of JT610 from Pankal Pinang to Jakarta. According to CNN, 90 family members have been flown to Jakarta, and 76 more are on the way.
The investigation is still underway, with little information available. TPG will continue to monitor the crash and findings from search and rescue efforts, as well as the ongoing investigation.
Featured image by Adek Berry / Getty Images.
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