13 minutes before tragedy struck: How the Lion Air disaster unfolded
LION Air flight JT 610 was only meant to take one hour from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang.
Instead, the doomed Boeing 737 Max 8 spent 13 minutes in the sky before it plunged into waters just off West Java.
As rescuers begin the grisly task of collecting aircraft parts and human remains, and as loved ones are told all 189 people on board were killed, investigators are trying to figure out what could have gone so terribly wrong for flight JT 610 in such little time.
Here’s how it unfolded yesterday. All times are in Jakarta local time.
proposed flight plan
6.20am: JT 610 takes off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Its arrival at Pangkal Pingang airport is scheduled for 7.20am.
6.23am: Pilot Bhavye Suneja asks air traffic control for permission to turn around and return to Jakarta airport. His request is approved.
6.33am: The aircraft loses contact with air traffic control at an altitude of only 1580 metres and plunges into coastal waters less than 35m deep in the Java Sea.
6.45am: The crew of a tugboat report to maritime authorities they have seen a downed plane, suspected to be a Lion Air plane, in the water. Vessels are dispatched to the area.
9.18am: Lion Air confirms it has lost contact with flight JT 610, The Associated Press reports. “We can confirm that one of our flights has lost contact,” Lion Air spokesman Danang Mandala Prihantoro says. “Its position cannot be ascertained yet.”
10.11am: Indonesia’s disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho posts on Twitter a video of aircraft debris floating in the water.
10.40am: By now it is confirmed there were 181 passengers on board, including one child and two babies, and eight crew.
Midday: Families of those on-board begin arriving at Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency headquarters in Jakarta for word on the fate of their loved ones.
12.22pm: Boeing, the manufacturer of the crashed 737 Max 8, releases a statement. “We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones,” it says.
12.38pm: Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia Gary Quinlan tweets the Australian government is working to determine if any Australians are on board the crashed flight.
We are aware of concerning reports about missing Lion Air flight JT610 that left Jakarta for Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Belitung this morning. Indonesian authorities are undertaking a search and rescue operation. We are making enquiries to determine if any Australians are affected.
12.46pm: Jakarta’s governor Anies Baswedan offers his condolences on Twitter. “Our prayers for the victims and their families,” he says.
2pm: By now a team of 300 people including soldiers, police and local fishermen are searching for the plane. ID cards, personal belongings and aircraft debris are recovered but no human remains.
4.30pm: Some human remains are recovered.
5.10pm: The head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency Bambang Suryo Aji says he doesn’t expect any survivors.
LION AIR’S DARK PAST
The crash of the Lion Air flight, despite clear weather, experienced flight crew and a Boeing 737 just two months old, has cast a dark spotlight on Indonesia’s chequered aviation history and that of Lion Air, one of the country’s biggest and youngest airlines that has just suffered its deadliest disaster.
The low-cost airline, which launched in 2000, has seen a number of crash landings and aircraft malfunctions. These are some of the most dramatic moments in the airline’s short history.
2004: Just four years after it started operating, Lion Air suffers its first deadly crash, when 25 people are killed when flight 538 crashes into a cemetery in Surakarta.
2006: A McDonnell Douglas aircraft was written off when it crashed after touching down at Juanda International Airport and skidding off the runway. It was found the left thrust reverser, which was needed for the landing, was out of service. There were no fatalities.
2007: All Indonesian airlines, including Lion Air, are banned from flying to Europe due to safety concerns. The European Union’s ban relaxed over the next decade, and was completely lifted in June. The US also lifted a 10-year ban on Indonesian airlines in 2016.
2010: Some passengers are injured when flight 712 landed on its belly at Supadio Airport. All 174 passengers and crew are evacuated by the emergency slides.
2011 and 2012: Lion Air pilots are arrested for drug possession.
2013: On April 13, flight 904 from Bangdung to Denpasar with 108 people on board crashed into waters near Bali after overshooting the runway. The fuselage of the Boeing 737-800 split into two parts and passengers had to swim for their lives. Miraculously, all survived.
2014: Two passengers were seriously injured and three suffered minor injuries when a Boeing 737-900 landed hard on the runway at Surabaya’s Juanda airport and bounced five times on the runway.
2017: About 300 litres of fuel spilt on the tarmac at Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport from a Lion Air aircraft’s wings. All passengers were evacuated and the plane was grounded for further investigation.
2018: On April 28, flight 892 ran off the runway at Jalaluddin Airport after landing under heavy rain conditions. The main nose gear collapsed but there were no fatalities.
The European Commission says it has no immediate plans to ban Indonesian airline Lion Air again after yesterday’s crash.
Harro Ranter, who runs the Aviation Safety Network, told AP that Indonesian airlines dealt with difficult terrain, frequent bad weather leading to poor visibility and shortcomings with air traffic controllers.
“Indonesia does stand out … they did have some really bad accidents in the past,” he said.
“It’s hard to judge if they have made sufficient progress with regard to safety.”
The Lion Air crash appears to be the first involving the Boeing 737 Max 8, a more fuel-efficient update of Boeing’s 737, which is the best-selling airliner ever.