Sriwijaya Air crash: Plane passed inspection last month

(BBC) – The Sriwijaya Air plane which crashed into the sea on Saturday had passed an airworthiness inspection last month, officials have said.

Flight SJ182, which was grounded between March and December last year, resumed commercial flights on 22 Dec.

Preliminary findings also showed the aircraft was still functioning and intact before it crashed.

The plane had 62 people on board when it plunged into the Java Sea. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

On Monday, Indonesian police identified its first victim – Okky Bisma, a 29-year-old flight attendant on the plane.

Indonesia’s Transport Ministry on Tuesday said the Boeing 737 had been grounded during the pandemic, and passed an inspection on 14 December.

It made its first flight five days later with no passengers, then resumed commercial flights shortly after that.

Separately, the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said that preliminary findings showed the aircraft reached the height of 10,900ft (3.3km) at 14:36 local time on Saturday (07:36 GMT), then made a steep drop to 250ft at 14:40, before it stopped transmitting data.

KNKT head Soerjanto Tjahjono added that the plane’s turbine disc with a damaged fan blade had been found – ruling out the theory that the plane exploded mid-air.

“The damaged fan blade indicates that the machine was still functioning when it crashed. This [is] also in line with the belief that the plane’s system was still functioning when it reached 250ft,” said Mr Soerjanto in a written statement to reporters.

What progress has been made so far?

Search teams say they have located the position of the aircraft’s black boxes and have been combing the waters to find it.

But the KNKT on Tuesday said that a device used to locate black boxes had experienced “technical problems or equipment damage”.

Black boxes – officially known as the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – store data about planes and can provide vital information in air accident investigations.

Authorities added that they were waiting for a new “ping locator” to arrive from Singapore.

It is unclear how the damaged locator affects the search, but local television on Tuesday showed footage of divers still looking for the black boxes.

Meanwhile several pieces of debris, body parts, wreckage and passengers’ clothing have already been recovered.

“There is so much debris down there and we have only lifted a few pieces. Hopefully, as we take out more [the recorders] can be found,” Navy chief of staff Yudo Margono told reporters.

According to news wire AFP, there were some 2,600 personnel involved in the search operation yesterday, along with more than 50 ships and 13 aircraft.

Investigators are already analysing items which they believe to be a wheel and part of the plane’s fuselage. A turbine from one of its engines is also among the debris that has been recovered.

Transport safety officials say they are currently in the second stage of a five-stage investigation process. This stage consists of compiling and collecting data and could take up to a year to wrap up.

What happened to the aircraft?

The Sriwijaya Air passenger plane departed from Jakarta’s main airport at 14:36 local time (07:36 GMT) on Saturday.

Minutes later, at 14:40, the last contact with the Boeing 737 plane was recorded, according to the transport ministry.

The usual flight time to Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province in the west of the island of Borneo, is 90 minutes.

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There were thought to be 50 passengers – including seven children and three babies – and 12 crew on board, though the plane has a capacity of 130. Everyone on board was Indonesian, officials say.

The plane is thought to have dropped more than 3,000m (10,000ft) in less than a minute, according to flight tracking website

Witnesses said they had seen and heard at least one explosion.

Sriwijaya Air, founded in 2003, is a local budget airline which flies to Indonesian and other South-east Asian destinations.

The missing aircraft is not a 737 Max, the Boeing model that was grounded from March 2019 until last December following two deadly crashes.

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