Connect with us


Lion Air crash dings Indonesia’s aviation record: It’s not all bad



Lion Air JT610 relatives
Relatives of
passengers on Lion Air flight JT 610 cry at Depati Amir Airport,
Pangkal Pinang, Belitung island, Indonesia

Antara Foto/Hadi Sutrisno via

  • Following the loss of a Lion Air flight in waters off
    Java on Monday, Indonesia is grappling with a fresh chapter in
    its troubled aviation history
  • While some have been
    quick to condemn
    Indonesian aviation, this latest tragedy
    is more out-of-character for an industry that has worked hard
    at reform for more than a decade during a period of enormous
  • Since a Garuda Airways 737-400 left the runway in March
    2007, killing one of the seven crew members and 20 passengers,
    Indonesia has made “enormous strides,” an aviation expert

When a Lion Air flight
fell out of the sky off the coast of Java
on Monday, a new
chapter began in Indonesia’s troubled history of aviation

The downed flight JT610 that crashed after taking off for Pangkal
Pinang on Bangka Island on Monday morning West Indonesian Time
(WIB) was carrying 181 passengers, including two children and a
baby, according to the Jakarta Post.

It appears now that all 189 on board have been lost.

Wreckage was located near where the plane lost contact with
air-traffic officials, Muhmmad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia’s
search and rescue agency, BASARNAS, told media.

“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” Syaugi told
a news conference, Monday. “We hope, we pray, but we cannot

But while many have been quick to condemn Indonesian aviation,
this latest tragedy is a bit out of character for an industry
that has worked hard to reform itself for more than a decade
during a period of enormous growth.

Flying Lion Air today is no death sentence and Indonesian
aviation is not the monster everyone is making it out to be.

The Indonesian archipelago is made up of some 17,500 islands.

As the economy has grown, more and more Indonesians can afford to
use air transport to travel across a nation of innumerable

When 21 people died on March 7, 2007, when a Garuda Boeing 737
skidded off the runway at Yogyakarta, and burst into flames,
officials seemed to awaken from the looming national trainwreck
facing their transport future.

Geoffrey Thomas, aviation expert and editor-in-chief of, said the accident was an “epiphany” for
Indonesia’s national carrier and a turning point for Indonesia.

“Everything had to change and everything did,” Thomas said.

Since then, Thomas says, Indonesian aviation has made “enormous

Its national carrier invested in, and updated, its fleet,
streamlined its operations and within a hectic decade has
re-emerged as a “model” breaking back into the US and European
markets as authorities from both exacting regulatory bodies
lifted their bans on the airline.

If it’s tough getting back into shark-infested waters, then the
collective fear that takes hold following blanket coverage of
aviation disasters can be even harder to shake.

Which goes some way to explaining the
reflex damnation
that Indonesia’s reviving air industry and
Lion Air have endured these last days.

“We have to be careful not to judge Lion Air too harshly. Lion
Air Group has over 300 aircraft and they fly to and from hundreds
and hundreds of destinations across Indonesia and their record in
recent times is pretty good,” Thomas said.

“I think there are a few people out there jumping on Indonesian
aviation saying, ‘oh, it’s hopeless, oh it’s terrible,’ well,
certainly there are some airlines with a checkered record, but
Lion is not one of them.”

The last fatality Lion Air had was in 2004 and the most damning
incident for Garuda in more than a decade was in 2017, when two
top executives from its low-cost Citilink carrier resigned after
a video of an allegedly inebriated pilot went viral.

Although, it should be noted that it was only when passengers on
board complained that the pilot was slurring his onboard welcome
that he was dragged off and replaced.

“Overall, Indonesia has made giant strides in the last few years
and has become really quite safe to what it was just a few years

Lion Air file photo
file photo from May 2012 shows a Lion Air passenger jet parked in

AP Photo/Trisnadi,

But it wasn’t always like this

According to Airline
at the end of 2015, Indonesia’s disaster-ridden
industry had more airlines with the lowest safety ranking than
any other country in the world, including Nepal.

“You don’t want to be flying in Nepal,” Thomas told Business
Insider. regularly measures 407 of the world’s major
airlines, giving each a safety score out of seven.

Just three years ago, of the 10 airlines that scored just one
point or less, all but one was Indonesian.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA),
Indonesia is expected to be the sixth-largest market for air
travel by 2034, servicing 270 million global and domestic

Considering its size, scope and the domestic dependence on both
tourism and air travel, it is not a market that can be allowed to

“Indonesia has turned it around completely in the last two years,
most Indonesian airlines have now completed and passed the IOSA –
a demanding international audit, which involves 1,000 safety

In a clear nod to Indonesia’s improving behaviors, the US
Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) announced that it also upgraded the country’s air safety
rating, paving the way for carriers to fly to America.

Indonesia has made it compulsory for such international audits,
as well as rigorously enforcing international standards.

“And Indonesia itself passed the international civil aviation
organization safety audit and the EU has since lifted its ban on
Lion and others to fly to Europe.”

“So Indonesian aviation, notwithstanding this accident, is
probably in the best state it’s ever been,” Thomas says.

Lion Air crash
from Lion Air flight JT 610 lies at the Tanjung Priok port on
October 29, 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Lion Air Flight JT 610
crashed shortly after take-off with no sign so far of survivors
among the 189 people on board the plane.

Ed Wray/Getty Images

So what went wrong?

The plane was new. The conditions were good. So why are 189
people dead?

Thomas says aviation experts are almost certain the issue with
JT610 related to the pitot tube static system which measures
altitude and translates the information back to the cockpit and
the autopilot.

“I’m not a pilot, however what I do know is that on the previous
flight the pilot’s instruments were unreliable, the pitot static
tube feeding in the captain’s data was erroneous.”

The pilots that had flown the Lion Air 737 Max that crashed on
Monday flagged serious control problems just 48 hours earlier in
Bali, similar to those recorded just before the flight crashed
into the sea off Java.

Thomas says the jury really is out if this is a Lion Air issue, a
Boeing issue or perhaps a pitot tube manufacturer problem.

“We know the mechanics at Lion Air looked at the tube in that
flight from Denpesar, we’ve got the log details, it was checked,
cleaned and tested. They ticked it off as ‘OK.'”

“Whether that was done correctly or not will have to wait for the
investigation — which could be months out.”

Put simply, a pitot-static system is a system of
pressure-sensitive instruments that are used in aviation to
determine an aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, and altitude trend.

The pitot tube performs like cruise control on a car, if its set
to 100 and you’re only on 80 it will speed the car up to get to
what it calculates is the right speed.

Another way of explaining this is when, a number of years ago,
Qantas had a similar incident flying between Singapore and Perth
where the data coming in from the pitot-static tube “went

“In that incident, the tube told the autopilot to dive and that’s
what the plane did.”

What happened to Lion Air flight JT610:

  • According to flight JT610 took off from
    runway 25L at Soekarno-Hatta Airport at 06:21 hours local time.
  • At 6:33 a.m., Lion Air flight JT-610 loses contact with
    Jakarta air control
  • Surveillance (ADS-B) data of the flight, captured by
    FlightRadar24 and FlightAware, show erratic values (too fast, too
    slow, too low, etc).
  • The aircraft made a climbing left-hand turn after takeoff.
  • Shortly after passing the ADS-B reported altitude of 2100
    feet, data points briefly show a lower altitude of around 1475
    feet,” FlighRadar24 reported.
  • Altitude data sent via ADS-B continue to show an erratic
    pattern, varying roughly between 4,500 and 5,350 feet.
  • The values then rapidly decline until contact is lost.
  • According to, the previous flight of the
    accident aircraft, then identified as JT043 from Denpasar, Bali,
    had displayed similar “erratic values” in altitude and airspeed
    after take-off, which stabilized 8 minutes later.
  • A log entry cited by Airline Ratings shows “airspeed
    unreliable and alt disagree shown after takeoff. It adds that the
    Captain’s instrument was unreliable and handover control to FO.”
    (first officer)
  • Lion Air has confirmed that the aircraft had a “technical
    problem” on the previous flight, “which had been resolved
    according to the procedure.”
  • The copy of the tech log shows that the Pitot Tube and Static
    Port were examined and checked.

Indonesia lion air
wait fo help tie up a navy ship bringing further wreckage of Lion
Air flight JT 610 at the Tanjung Priok port on October 29, 2018
in Jakarta, Indonesia. Lion Air Flight JT 610 crashed shortly
after take-off with no sign so far of survivors among the 189
people on board the plane.

Wray/Getty Images

Hard questions to follow

There can be no doubt that despite their progress, Indonesian
air-safety officials face many difficult questions.

For example, when Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta
where JT610 took off is undergoing a major terminal expansion
program, with plans to add a third runway as well, is said to
only have a capacity to manage around 43 million passengers
annually, when in 2017 some 60 million passengers flew in or out
of the airport.

How much is being invested in personnel and resources when,
speaking to the Jakarta Post at the end of last year, Indonesia’s
Transportation Ministry airport director Bintang Hidayat said the
number of air passengers would climb by almost 30% to 140 million
in 2018, much higher than previously expected.

According to data from the Centre for Aviation
domestic air travel accounts for nearly 75% of total passenger
traffic, yet at the same time, Indonesia has emerged as a huge
tourist destination, with visitor numbers increasing by 21% last
year as China has become Indonesia’s largest source market.

If growth once again outstrips oversight, Indonesia’s
not-too-distant dark past and the new, terrible images that sink
and rest at the bottom of popular imagination will not be far

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job