Indonesia Lion Air jet crash: Search for bodies extended

JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN) - A hunt on for second black box as investigators study problematic readings to unravel mystery.

Search efforts in the Lion Air jet crash have been extended once more in the hope of recovering victims' bodies and a second black box, while air crash investigators take a closer look at problematic "angle of attack" readings in a bid to unravel the mystery behind the deadly crash.

Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) chief Muhammad Syaugi told reporters yesterday morning: "We decided to extend our evacuation operation by another three days, specifically for Basarnas."

The agency's search for Lion Air Flight JT610 - which crashed on Oct 29 en route to Pangkal Pinang from Jakarta, killing all 189 on board - will go on until Saturday.

A joint team that includes volunteers, officers from the Indonesian military and police have for the past 10 days scoured the Java Sea for victims and plane parts.

Air Marshal Syaugi said: "To the others involved, I would like to express my gratitude and greatest appreciation for the synergy and dedication that have allowed us to, this morning, hand 186 body bags over to the disaster victim investigation team."

About 220 Basarnas staff, as well as 60 divers, will press on with search efforts over the next few days, he added. They will focus on a 250m radius in the Java Sea where plane parts - including wheels and turbines - have been found.

This is the second time the search operation, initially supposed to end on Sunday, has been extended.

Divers say victims are still buried under debris. The plane's second black box - its cockpit voice recorder - continues to elude them.

While the flight data recorder was retrieved last week, National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said his team needs the second black box. The cockpit voice recorder could offer crucial clues, he said, noting that besides conversations inside the cockpit, it could also contain other valuable information, such as warning sounds.

The KNKT team, helped by a team from Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau, is still looking for the device, said Mr Soerjanto yesterday (Nov 7).

Air Marshal Syaugi said some of his divers have been tasked to continue the search as well.

The plane's flight data recorder showed there were problems with the Boeing 737 Max 8's airspeed indicator during its final four flights.

On a flight from Bali to Jakarta on Oct 28 - the plane's penultimate journey before it crashed the next morning - there was a difference between angle of attack readings on the side of the pilot and that of the co-pilot, Mr Soerjanto said.

Mr Nurcahyo Utomo, KNKT sub-committee head for air accidents, said the angle of attack - the angle at which wind is passing over the wing - affects the calculation of aircraft speed.

One of the plane's angle of attack sensors was changed before the flight out of Bali, after a pilot flagged issues with the airspeed indicator.

The sensor that was removed then has been brought to the KNKT office, and will be inspected at the manufacturer's factory in Chicago, said Mr Soerjanto. KNKT plans to do a flight reconstruction, taking into account a faulty angle of attack sensor, at Boeing's engineering simulator in Seattle.


No photos has been attached.