An Indonesian aircraft with 189 people onboard crashed into the Java Sea on Monday as it tried to circle back to the capital, Jakarta, from where it had taken off minutes earlier, and there were likely no survivors, officials said.
Lion Air flight JT610, an almost new Boeing 737 MAX 8, was en route to Pangkal Pinang, capital of the Bangka-Belitung tin mining region. Rescue officials said they had recovered some human remains from the crash site, about 15 km (9 miles) off the coast.
The pilot had asked to return to base (RTB) after the plane took off from Jakarta. It lost contact with ground staff after 13 minutes.
“An RTB 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.
Edward Sirait, Chief Executive Officer of Lion Air Group, told reporters the aircraft had had a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta but it had been “resolved according to procedure.” Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of its other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.
Boeing, which made the 737 MAX 8 jet, said wreckage of the twin-engine, narrow-body plane has been detected and that it “stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation.” The Company directed all other questions to the Indonesian transportation safety committee.
“We express our concern for those on board, and extend heartfelt sympathies to their families and loved ones,” Boeing said.
The plane is a new model of its best-selling 737, which first debuted in 1967 and is Boeing’s top seller. Boeing introduced the 737 MAX family of aircraft in 2011, using quieter engines and more fuel efficiency than previous models as selling points. That year, Lion Air ordered 230 737s, including 201 737 MAX jets, according to Boeing.
The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) has delivered more than 200 of the 737 MAX jets worldwide and it plans to increase production of its 737 jets to 57 a month from 52 next year to keep up with strong demand. It has an order backlog of more than 4,600 Boeing 737s, it said on its website.