A senior AirNav official has confirmed that the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT610 that crashed into the Java Sea on Monday morning requested to return to base only two to three minutes after takeoff from Soekarno Hatta International Airport.
“We received the request from the pilot to return to base. The air traffic controller gave permission to return, and there is a recording of it,” said AirNav president director Novie Riyanto in a press conference at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten.
However, he went on to say that he could not explain why the pilot requested to return to base.
Read also: Lion Air JT610 crash: What we know so far
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said in a press conference at the airport that the National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) was investigating the cause of the crash while the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) was still searching for the aircraft and any survivors.
“What I have learned so far, there does not appear to be negligence by the relevant authorities [regarding the tragedy]. Whatever it is, let the KNKT investigate this incident,” he said.
Earlier, Lion Air said in a separate press conference that a technical problem was reported by pilots when the same aircraft was flying from Denpasar in Bali to Jakarta on the night before the crash.
“There was a report of a technical issue previously, but the problem had been addressed according to the correct procedures [after the plane landed at Soekarno-Hatta airport],” Lion Air CEO Edward Sirait said, adding that the plane had been declared “ready to take off” by Lion Air engineers before flying to Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung Islands.
Edward did not reveal details of the technical problem.
The plane, which was scheduled to land at Depati Amir Airport at 7:10 a.m., lost contact with air traffic control at 6:33 a.m. shortly after it took off at 6:20 a.m. from Soekarno-Hatta. It reportedly crashed 7 nautical miles north of the coast of Tanjung Bungin in Karawang, West Java.
The plane had 189 people on board—comprising 178 adult passengers, three minors, two pilots and six crew members. The pilots and the crew members have been named as pilot Bhavye Suneja, a New Delhi resident who had 6,000 flight hours, co-pilot Harvino with more than 5,000 flight hours; and cabin crew Shintia Melina, Citra Noivita Anggelia, Alviani Hidayatul Solikha, Damayanti Simarmata, Mery Yulianda and Deny Maula.
The plane, registration number PK-LQP, was built this year and started operations for Lion Air on Aug. 15. (evi)