A flight on Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air crashed into the ocean minutes after takeoff from Jakarta’s International Airport (CGK) on Monday morning, presumably killing all 189 people on board.
Flight JT610 left CGK at about 6:20 a.m. local time for Pangkal Pinang (PGK), on an island north of Jakarta. But airport officials said they lost contact with the plane soon after takeoff, and flight records indicate the plane rapidly descended into the ocean less than 10 minutes after takeoff from CGK.
It’s unclear what may have caused the crash. Search and rescue is already underway, but the agency’s spokesman, Yusuf Latief, told Reuters there were likely no survivors. Airline and Indonesian safety officials are waiting to retrieve the plane’s black box before commenting on a potential cause.
Shortly before going down, the pilot reportedly asked to return to base (RTB). “An RTB was requested and had been approved but we’re still trying to figure out the reason,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee.
The plane was carrying 181 passengers, including a child and two infants. Seven crew members were also on the flight. It’s the first accident involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8, one of the newest small passenger planes on the market. This particular plane entered service just in August and had flown fewer than 800 hours.
The plane involved in the accident suffered a mechanical issue during a Sunday night flight from Bali (DPS) to CGK. But airline officials said that was quickly resolved and the plane was cleared for Monday’s flight.
Anytime a tragedy like this occurs, we have to remind people: Getting on an airplane is safe. You are many times more likely to get in a car accident than go down on a plane.
Yet Indonesia doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to aviation safety. Many of its airlines, including Lion Air, were banned from operating flights to either the European Union or the U.S. for years, citing poor safety records.
Lion Air is a low-cost carrier that quickly became Indonesia’s largest airline. It offers cheap fares not just between Indonesia’s many islands but throughout Southeast Asia as well.
If all passengers on board are dead as feared, this is the deadliest plane crash of 2018 by far. And more importantly, it’s an absolute tragedy. We will provide more updates to this story as they become available.
Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0): Andrew W. Sieber via Flickr