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Lion Air crash: pilot fought to keep the plane airborne right until the end, says report

  • The plane experienced technical difficulties before careering up and down, stalling mid-air and crashing into the sea at more than 600km/h
PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 9:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2018, 9:26pm

One of Indonesia’s aviation chiefs has revealed that the pilot of the Lion Air plane that crashed last month, killing 189 people, fought to keep the plane in the air to the end, even after it stalled and was nosediving to the ground.

Addressing the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta, Nurcahyo Utomo, the aviation head of the national transportation safety committee, said data retrieved from the flight recorder showed that the pilot “continued to fight until the end of the flight”, according to a report in The Australian newspaper.

Nurcahyo also confirmed the aircraft had experienced “the same obstacles” on the previous day’s flight from Denpasar to Jakarta, but on that occasion the pilot had managed to keep control of the plane.

Answers are still being sought about why the new Boeing 737 Max aeroplane, operated by one of Indonesia’s biggest airlines, plummeted into the sea moments after take-off

In a detailed account of the flight’s final moments, Nurcahyo said the graphs from the flight recorder showed the plane experienced technical difficulties soon after take-off as the captain and co-pilot began receiving different airspeed readings.

The plane then began careering up and down, to a height of 5,000 feet, before misleading data from one of the aircraft’s attack sensors, which measure the angle of the nose, caused the plane to stall mid-air.

As the aircraft began to nosedive, the pilot attempted to offset the action, fighting to keep it in the air. However, it became “increasingly difficult to control the aeroplane”, said Nurcahyo, as the load on the steering wheel became too heavy for the pilot to manually control, and “then the plane drops”. The aircraft crashed into the sea at a speed of more than 600 kilometres per hour.

Analysis of the flight data recorder confirmed the 737 Boeing had no engine problems. Investigators are still searching for the cockpit voice recorder, which may provide more answers on how the tragedy occurred.

Boeing has denied it “intentionally withheld” information about modifications to the plane’s anti-stall system.

Boeing promises to reveal findings of investigation into technical issues