A day after a Boeing 737-500 belonging to Indonesia's third largest airline Sriwijaya Air went missing with 62 people onboard, Indonesian rescuers have managed to pull out body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early Sunday morning, confirming the fate of Flight 182. Flight tracking data suggests that the flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta losing 10,000 ft altitude in few minutes.
While many are speculating the airworthiness of the Boeing plane, Sriwijaya Air President Director Jefferson Irwin Jauwena said the plane, which is 26 years old and previously used by airlines in the United States, was airworthy. He further told reporters that the plane had previously flown to Pontianak and Pangkal Pinang city on the same day.
"Maintenance report said everything went well and airworthy," Jauwena told a news conference. He said the plane was delayed due to bad weather, not because of any damage. Flight SJ182 was delayed for an hour before it took off at 2:36 pm. It disappeared from radar four minutes later, after the pilot contacted air traffic control to ascend to an altitude of 29,000 feet (8,839 meters).
"We are aware of media reports from Jakarta regarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ-182," Boeing said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support them during this difficult time."
Indonesia has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
The Lion Air crash was Indonesia's worst airline disaster since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda airlines flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people. Sriwijaya Air has only has several minor incidents in the past, though a farmer was killed in 2008 when landing plane went off runway due to a hydraulic issue.
The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country in 2007, but reversed the decision in 2016, citing improvements in compliance with international aviation standards. The European Union has previously had similar bans, lifting them in June 2018.
With inputs from agencies.