Crashed jetliner airworthy before taking off: KNKT
The Jakarta Post
The National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) is claiming the media erroneously reported that the Lion Air jetliner that crashed into the Java Sea last month was not airworthy.
“We would like to highlight that the KNKT and the head of its Aviation Investigation Subcommittee [Nurcahyo Utomo] never stated that the Lion Air aircraft, the Boeing 737-8 (MAX) registration PK-LQP, was not airworthy,” the committee said in a statement on Thursday.
The ill-fated aircraft was flying from Jakarta to Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung Islands, when it nose-dived into the sea about 13 minutes after taking off, killing 189 crew and passengers onboard.
It was revealed that the aircraft suffered malfunctions during its previous flight from Denpasar, Bali. The KNKT, however, claimed that the problems had been fixed in Jakarta.
In a separate statement, which was signed by Nurcahyo, the committee said the engineer had signed the Aircraft Flight Maintenance Log (AMFL) for JT610, meaning it was considered airworthy before it took off.
“After landing [from Denpasar], the pilot reported malfunctions experienced during the flight to the engineers, who immediately conducted repairs and testing. After the tests showed positive results, the AFML was signed by the engineer and the aircraft was declared airworthy,” Nurcahyo said in the statement.
“Therefore, we stated the aircraft […] was in airworthy condition upon departure from Bali [to Jakarta], as well as before its next flight from Jakarta [to Pangkalpinang].”
The committee then clarified that its designation as airworthy would have ended if the aircraft had experienced any malfunctions while still in the air. “The decision to continue the flight or land immediately was in the hands of the pilots in command.”
Previously, foreign and national news outlets published reports quoting Nurcahyo saying the downed aircraft had been unairworthy since its previous flight from Denpasar to Jakarta the night before the accident.
The media reports were based on a press briefing in which KNKT released the preliminary report of the investigation into the plane crash on Wednesday, 30 days after the accident occurred and took the lives of 189 people on board — eight flight crew and 181 passengers, including three minors. The report consists of facts and evidence gathered by the committee, including the aircraft’s latest maintenance record and recommendations from the KNKT to Lion Air.
In the report, the KNKT wrote it found that the aircraft’s stick shaker — a device that warns pilots of an imminent stall — was active prior to and during the flight from Denpasar. The pilot also noticed the plane’s automatic trim system was pushing the plane’s nose down. The cockpit crew reacted by turning off the autopilot and flying the aircraft manually until it landed safely in Jakarta.
“Referring to civil aircraft airworthiness and the operation manual [...], the pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical or structural conditions occur,” the committee wrote in the recommendation section of the report. “This condition [stick shaker problem] is considered unairworthy and the flight should not have been continued.”
The committee also found at least six malfunctions in previous flights since Oct. 26.
Lion Air immediately denied the published reports. “Before flying from Denpasar, the airplane was checked for its airworthiness and eventually allowed to fly by our engineers, according to procedure,” president director Edward Sirait said during a press briefing on Wednesday night.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 30, 2018, with the title "Crashed jetliner airworthy before taking off: KNKT".
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