U.S. safety board to assist Indonesia in investigation of Jakarta crash
By Tom Risen|October 29, 2018
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was practically new, raising questions about initial maintenance
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it will send investigators to Indonesia to assist in the investigation of the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 flown by Jakarta-based Lion Air pilots.
The plane crashed in the Java Sea on Monday with 189 aboard shortly after taking off from Jakarta.
Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency stated online that bodies of some victims and pieces of the aircraft had been found. It said divers and remotely operated underwater vehicles were searching for the wreckage, which its personnel expect is 35 meters below the surface.
Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said the plane was delivered to Lion Air in August and that Boeing will assist in the investigation led by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee. The 737 MAX 8 is the latest version of the 737 series, and this was the first crash of that model, Bergman said.
The pilot had more than 6,000 flight hours and the co-pilot had more than 5,000 flight hours.
Relatively new aircraft are not immune to crashes. Although the investigation is just getting underway, inadequate repairs after a plane is flown on its first few trips are sometimes the cause of accidents, said Mary Sciavo, an attorney and the transportation practice group head at Motley Rice law firm.
“I have lost count of the number of crashes I have worked on that met disaster in the first flight after maintenance,” said Sciavo, who was inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996.
The International Civil Aviation Organization raised concerns about Indonesia’s aviation safety in audits conducted in February 2007. Several months later the European Aviation Safety Agency banned all airlines based in Indonesia from flying to the European Union from 2007 until June 2018. The ban was lifted early for Jakarta-based Lion Air, which was allowed to fly to the EU in 2016. The FAA also banned airlines based in Indonesia from flying to the U.S. from 2007 to 2016.
“They lacked adequate safety regulation enforcement and personnel,” Sciavo said. “Indonesian aviation is growing so fast, it outstripped training and oversight.”