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189 Feared Dead in Indonesia Plane Crash, Adding to Country’s Troubling Record

Danang Mandala Prihantoro, a Lion Air official, said in a statement that the aircraft was new and had been in service only since August.

“Lion Air is very concerned about this incident and will collaborate with relevant agencies and all parties,” Mr. Danang said, adding that the airline had set up hotlines for the relatives of passengers to call for information.

Edward Sirait, Lion Air’s president director, said the same plane had experienced an unspecified technical problem during a flight on Sunday from Bali to Jakarta but that the issue had been resolved “according to procedure.”

There was no immediate word on casualties as of early Monday afternoon, but Muhammad Syauqi, the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency, told reporters that body parts had been found around the crash site.

The cause of the crash was not clear.

FlightRadar24, a flight tracking service, said that it had analyzed preliminary satellite navigation data from the flight that showed an “increase in speed” and “high rate of descent” from the plane’s last transmission.

The data released by FlightRadar24 showed Monday’s flight taking off and initially ascending to what would be a normal altitude. But within a couple of minutes, the plane suddenly plunged 500 feet and banked left in an unusual flight pattern. The plane then ascended and leveled off before what appears to have been a sharp descent into the Java Sea.

“The erratic flight path makes us suspect a problem with the pitot-static system,” said Gerry Soejatman, an Indonesian aviation expert, referring to the instruments used to record the flight’s airborne speed and altitude.

Mr. Soejatman said he had looked at the flight data from Sunday’s flight and noted a “similar erratic climb and groundspeed problem,” leading him to suspect a problem with the instruments had also been an issue then.

Several plane crashes have been blamed on blockages or other problems with pitot tubes, a probe on the outside of the aircraft, which resulted in erroneous speed or altitude readings, Mr. Soejatman said.

Soerjanto Thanjono, the chief of Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, said at a news briefing on Monday that the weather had been sunny and clear.

After the plane took off, the wind speed was only five knots between the altitudes of 10,000 and 24,000 feet, said Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics.

Boeing said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” and stood ready to assist investigators. “We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones,” it said.

Lion Air said in a statement on Monday that the captain of the flight, Capt. Bhavye Suneja, an Indian citizen, had more than 6,000 flying hours and that the co-pilot, who goes by the single name of Harvino, had more than 5,000 flying hours.

Source: NYT > World

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