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The aircraft involved in the accident, photographed in September 2018. Photo: @CGK 2018, Creative Commons

Brand new Lion Air aircraft crashes in sea

The new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft was built this year, but it had experienced problems before today.

Debris is being recovered from the sea just to the north of Jakarta after an aircraft belonging to the Indonesian airline Lion Air crashed shortly after take-off this morning.

Believed to be carrying 189 passengers and crew, Flight JT610 departed at around 06:20 local time, but authorities lost contact with the plane 13 minutes into the flight.

The flight was bound for Pangkal Pinang on the Indonesian island of Bangka. A spokesperson for Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency said that no survivors had yet been found.

Lion Air says that 178 adults were on board, plus two babies and one infant, as well as two pilots and six crew.

The aircraft made a request to return to Jakarta shortly after take-off, local media report, as it suddenly lost altitude before recovering but then plunged once again.

Images tweeted by the search and rescue agency show debris recovered the waters off the coast of the capital.

The airline says that the aircraft was a new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft built this year, which entered service only on August 15. The captain and co-pilot have more than 11,000 flight hours between them, Lion Air said.

“Lion Air flight JT610 en-route to Pangkalpinang has crashed near Kerawang, 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport at 6:20am,” the airline reported.

“Lion Air is concerned with the incident and will work with the relevant authorities and agencies on this matter.”

The European Commission only removed Lion Air and several other Indonesian airlines from its blacklist earlier this year.

Earlier problems
The weather is reported to have been fine with light winds and scattered clouds at 2000 feet and a visibility of 8000m, the Aviation Safety Network reports.

The data of the flight, captured by Flightradar24 and Flightaware, show erratic changes, with the aircraft making a climbing left-hand turn after take-off.

Shortly after passing an altitude of 2100 feet, data points briefly show a lower altitude of around 1475 feet. The values then rapidly decline until contact is lost at 06:32 hours.

The previous flight of the aircraft, JT043 from Denpasar, showed similar erratic values in altitude and airspeed after take-off, but after eight minutes the values stabilised.

An unverified log item for that flight, sent to the Aviation Safety Network, remarks, “Airspeed unreliable and alt disagree shown after take-off.[…] Identified that CAPT instrument was unreliable and handover control to FO.”

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