Aviation Expert Claims Bomb Was Behind Indonesian Plane Crash
Captain John Nance says believes aircraft was bombed, causing it to crash
As the world still reels from the tragic plane crash in Indonesia, that plunged into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta, likely killing all 189 people on board, a leading aviation expert has revealed that the doomed flight may have been bombed.
Lion Air's flight JT-610, that was reportedly carrying 23 government officials among the passengers, was flying north to the island Pangkal Pinang, when it lost contact with air control just 13 minutes after take-off, at around 6.33am on Monday local time.
Rescue workers are still recovering the wreckage from the ocean, with debris and passengers' belongings scattered across the surface of the water.
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The recovery operation is still pulling bodies from the sea, with authorities confirming they have yet to find any survivors.
Of all of the 189 people on board, officials say they are either deceased or lost at sea and feared dead.
New York Times Bestselling Author and World-Recognized Aviation Analyst, Captain John J. Nance, says the crashing of the airplane is "unusual" and believes the evidence suggests that it was more like brought down by a bomb rather than an accidental malfunction.
"There's just nothing on board the airplane, including the engines, that could cause a catastrophic nose over like this.
"So we're looking at the possibility of, for instance, a bomb," he told Newshub.
According to the Daily Mail, Captain Nance also suggested pilot error or a murder-suicide may have been behind the crash.
"An airplane like this does not normally fall out of the sky, even a 737 of an older variety.
"There's just nothing on board the airplane, including the engines, that could cause a catastrophic nose over like this," he said.
"What we've got here is a flight path that doesn't make sense, outside of a bomb, or outside of some massive failure."
Shortly before the disaster, the plane's pilot, Indian national Bhavye Suneja, had reported 'technical difficulties' and, minutes after take-off, asked to return to the airport, an official said.
Traffic control allowed the return, but the aircraft then vanished from radar and plunged 5,000ft into the sea.
The flight, which crashed shortly after take-off, had suffered instrument problems the day before, according to a technical log obtained by the BBC.
The technical log from the plane's previous flight from Bali to Jakarta suggests the Indonesian flight had an 'unreliable' airspeed reading and the captain and first officer had conflicting altitude readings the day before the crash.
Australian aviation expert and former Emirates pilot Captain Byron Bailey said he believed the pilot's lack of training was to blame.
"It's not the airplane at fault, I'm sure of that.
"You really have to look at budget airlines and the training their pilots are going through," he told Nine News.
"The problem with these budget airlines is that unlike Qantas, Emirates and everyone else, the pilots get in the flight simulator every six months and practice these things.
"But if these guys are running on a low budget, they aren't getting their simulator training."
Lion Air's president said the Boeing 737 MAX 8, which went into service just months ago, had gone in for repairs ahead of its final flight.
"It got repaired in Denpasar (in Bali) and then it was flown to Jakarta," Edward Sirait told AFP.
"Engineers in Jakarta received notes and did another repair before it took off on Monday.
"That's the normal procedure for any plane."
Websites that display flight data showed the plane speeding up as it suddenly lost altitude in the minutes before it disappeared.
Photos show debris, including what appeared to be an emergency slide, and personal belongings picked up from the water's surface by ships that reached the crash area in the Java Sea.
Separate images show heart-broken relatives waiting for news at Jakarta's Soekarno Hatta International airport and at the terminal in Pangkal Pinang.
One of the passengers was 22-year-old Deryl Fida Febrianto, who was married just two weeks ago and was on his way to Pangkal Pinang to work on a cruise ship.
His wife, Lutfinani Eka Putri, 23, said that her husband messaged her from the aircraft at 6.12am, sending her a photo from the plane, and at 6.15am he stopped replying to her messages.
They had grown up together, she told reporters, showing a picture of the smiling couple on their wedding day.
"When I saw the news, I matched the flight number with the ticket photo Deryl had sent," she said.
"I immediately started crying."
Rescuers said today that all 189 passengers and crew were 'likely' to have died and that human remains had been found.
"My prediction is that nobody survived because the victims that we found, their bodies were no longer intact and it's been hours so it is likely 189 people have died," agency operational director Bambang Suryo Aji told reporters.
Pilot Suneja, originally from New Delhi, had worked for Lion Air since March 2011 and had logged 11,000 flying hours.
After receiving friends and relatives who rushed to their New Delhi home upon hearing news of the crash, the parents of the pilot Suneja set off for the Indonesian capital.
"Please pray for us," Suneja's sobbing mother said as she got into a car.
A family friend, Anil Gupta, said Suneja's father was stunned and couldn't talk, and his sister and mother had not come out of their rooms.
The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse single-aisle jet.
Pictures and video shared online by the head of Indonesia's disaster relief agency show debris and oil floating on the water following the crash, of which there are, so far, no known survivors.
"It's correct that an RTB (return to base) was requested and had been approved but we're still trying to figure out the reason," Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of Indonesia's transport safety committee, told reporters, referring to the pilot's request.
"We hope the black box is not far from the main wreckage so it can be found soon," he said, referring to the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.
Pope Francis conveyed his condolences to those affected today with The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, saying in a telegram to that the pontiff "offers the assurance of his prayers for all who have died and for those who mourn their loss."
Relatives were pictured crying at the Pangpal Pinang airport as they awaited news on their loved ones and family members were also pictured arriving at the agency's headquarters in Jakarta.
Feni, who uses a single name, said her soon-to-be-married sister was on the flight, planning to meet relatives in Pangkal Pinang, a jumping off point for beach-and-sun seeking tourists on nearby Belitung island.
"We are here to find any information about my younger sister, her fiance, her in-law to be and a friend of them," said Feni.
"We don't have any information," she said, as her father wiped tears from reddened eyes.
"No one provided us with any information that we need.
"We hope our family is still alive," she said.
On board were 178 adults, one child, two babies, two pilots, and five flight attendants.
There were also 20 staff members from the Indonesian Ministry for Finance on board, and 23 government officials in total according to Reuters.
AN Italian national was also among those on board.
Sony Setiawan has revealed he is lucky to be alive after traffic jams made him late for a flight that crashed into the sea off Indonesia.
He was due to be among the 189 people on board Lion Air flight JT 610 when it took off early from the capital Jakarta on Monday morning.
But he was held up on his commute to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and never boarded the Boeing-737.
The head of search and rescue agency Basarnas told reporters body parts had been seen floating in the ocean near the crash site.
"We don't know yet whether there are any survivors," Syaugi told a news conference.
"We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm."
He later said body parts had been seen floating near Tanjung Karawang, where the plane is believed to have gone down, about 34 nautical miles north-west of Jakarta, but it was too soon to say how many had died.
About 150 people have joined the rescue mission, including 30 divers, as authorities search desperately for survivors.
The air tracking service FlightRadar 24 tracked the plane, showing it looping south on take-off and then heading north before the flight path ended abruptly over the Java Sea, not far from the coast.
A tugboat leaving Jakarta's port saw the plane falling into the water, which is reported to be about 30-35m deep.
The jet was a Boeing 737 MAX 8 which can carry as many as 210 passengers.
In a statement, Boeing said it was "deeply saddened by the loss of Flight JT 610" and expressed sympathy for the loved ones of those on board.
A statement issued by Indonesia's search and rescue agency said the plane's Emergency Local Transmitter beacon did not emit a distress signal as it fell from the sky - despite it being tested and declared fully functional until August 2019.
"It has been confirmed that it has crashed," Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for the agency, said by text message when asked about the fate of the Lion Air plane.
Lion Air's CEO Edward Sirait said a technical problem had been raised about the plane before it took off, but added the plane was cleared by engineers before take-off on Monday morning.
He said the airline owned 11 of the 737 Max 8 models and that none had had any issues up until Monday.
He told reporters: "This plane previously flew from Denpasar to Cengkareng (Jakarta).
"There was a report of a technical issue which had been resolved according to procedure."
Preliminary flight tracking data from Flightradar24 shows the aircraft climbed to around 5,000 feet (1,524 m) before losing, and then regaining, height, before finally falling towards the sea.
It was last recorded at 3,650 feet (1,113 m) and its speed had risen to 345 knots, according to raw data captured by the respected tracking website, which could not immediately be confirmed.
Its last recorded position was about 9 miles north of the Indonesian coastline, according to a Google Maps reference of the last coordinates reported by Flightradar24.
It lost contact with air control at about 6.33am local time (10.33am AEDT, 11.33pm BST).
The accident is the first to be reported that involves the widely-sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse single-aisle jet.
The first Boeing 737 MAX jets were introduced into service in 2017.
Lion Air's Malaysian subsidiary, Malindo Air, received the very first global delivery.
Dr. Soerjanto Tjahjono, who heads up Indonesia's national transportation safety committee, told reporters the doomed plane had only clocked about 800 flight hours since beginning service in August.
Meanwhile, Australia's foreign affairs ministry says Australian government officials and contractors "have been instructed not to fly on Lion Air or their subsidiary airlines" following the crash.
The statement posted on the ministry's website said the decision will be reviewed when the findings of the crash investigation are clear.
Lion Air is one of Indonesia's youngest and biggest airlines, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.
In 2013, one of its Boeing 737-800 jets missed the runway while landing on the resort island of Bali, crashing into the sea without causing any fatalities among the 108 people on board.
Indonesia has a horror track record on air safety and only recently the European Union removed all Indonesia airlines from its aviation safety blacklist.
Three major Indonesia airlines, including Lion, were upgraded to the top safety tier in June after passing a key international audit.
There have been more than 40 air accidents resulting in deaths in Indonesia since 2001.
A rapid expansion of air travel in recent years has seen an explosion of low-cost airlines operating in the country.