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Indonesian plane reported problem before deadly crash

The Lion Air aircraft that crashed in the Java Sea off Jakarta on Monday had reported a flight control problem two minutes after takeoff, Indonesian authorities said Tuesday as the search for the ill-fated plane continued.

Flight JT610 went down after taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 6:20 a.m. with 189 passengers and crew on board, bound for the island of Bangka off southeastern Sumatra.

Body parts have already been recovered from the crash site, with no survivors expected to be found among the 181 passengers and eight crew members.

Haryo Satmiko, deputy chief of the National Transportation Safety Committee, said that at 6:22 a.m. Monday, the plane’s Indian pilot Bhavye Suneja contacted Jakarta’s air traffic control to report a «flight control problem» while flying at an altitude of 518 meters and requesting permission to climb to 1,524 meters.

The request was approved, but moments later a separate request was made to return to Jakarta. Contact with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 was lost at 6:33 a.m.

Flight tracking service FlightRadar24 said «preliminary data show an increase in speed and decrease in altitude at last transmission.»

The data issued by FlightRadar24 showed that the plane took off and ascended normally, but minutes later, it kept ascending and descending several times before plunging into the Java Sea.

A total of 37 bags containing body parts of an unknown number of people on board as well as others containing debris of the plane arrived Tuesday morning at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Harbor. The body parts were immediately sent to Bhayangkara Police Hospital for identification.

A total of 812 military personnel from various branches, seven ships and three helicopters have been deployed to the scene of the crash, with the search focused on recovering the plane’s black boxes.

Lion Air President Edward Sirait acknowledged that the plane had a technical problem on a flight from Bali to Jakarta on Sunday, but said it had been «resolved through maintenance procedures issued by the aircraft’s factory.»

A television presenter who was on Sunday’s flight posted on Instagram that the plane left behind schedule and there were problems with the air conditioning before it left.

The narrow-body, twin-engine passenger aircraft was almost new. It was only delivered to Lion Air on Aug. 15 this year and had only 800 hours of flying time.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi on Tuesday ordered both national carrier Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air to inspect their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. Garuda has one, while Lion Air has eight.

«Any problems with the plane over the last one month and other details needs to be reported to the authorities,» Budi told a press conference.

«The report, along with the results of investigation by the National Transportation Safety Committee, will be used to determine the cause of the crash,» he added.

Ony Suryo Wibowo, an investigator at the National Transportation Safety Committee, told a press conference that a U.S. team of investigators including personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing will arrive in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Offers of assistance from Argentina, Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia have also been received.

«We quickly responded to their offers and they sent the equipment we need,» Ony said.

Among the equipment on loan from the countries, according to the investigator, is a «hydrophone» that can listen for ping signals from the underwater locator beacon attached to the black boxes.

«Hopefully, it is still attached to the black boxes, so we can find the wreckage that may be located near them,» he said.

The Jakarta-based budget carrier has been involved in a series of incidents, including one in 2004 in which 26 people were killed after its plane skidded at an airport in the town of Solo in Central Java Province.

Kin of Indonesia plane crash victims

All — Kyodo News+

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