Off-Duty Pilot Prevented Similar Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 Mishap, A Day Before Deadly Crash
An off-duty pilot from Baltic Air hitching a ride on Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 a day before deadly crash, helped the pilot avert another mishap.
(Image for representation: Reuters)
The pilots of a doomed Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX scrambled through a handbook to understand why the jet was lurching downwards in the final minutes before it hit the water killing all 189 people on board, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said. The investigation into the crash last October has taken on new relevance as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators grounded the model last week after a second deadly accident in Ethiopia.
Following the second fatal accident, U.S. authorities are reviewing whether enough was done to ensure the plane was safe to fly, while attention has also focused on the training of the Lion Air crew and whether aeroplane manuals are clear enough. It is the first time the voice recorder contents from the Lion Air flight have been made public. The three sources discussed them on condition of anonymity.
A member of Indonesia's Navy Kopaska holds a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of a Lion Air JT610 that crashed into Tanjung Karawang sea, on the deck of Indonesia's Navy ship KRI Spica-934 at Karawang sea in West Java, Indonesia. (Image: Reuters)
As a matter of fact, digging the old data to make sense of the Ethiopian Airlines crash has led to an amazing find, an unheard hero who saved no less than 189 lives a day before the deadly Lion Air crash. According to Bloomberg, an off-duty pilot taking a ride in the cockpit of a Lion Air ‘s Boeing 737 Max 8 helped the confused pilot and co-pilot disable a malfunctioning flight control system, that same system that led to the crash a plane the very next day.
As per Bloomberg – “According to two people familiar with Indonesia’s investigation, that extra pilot, who was seated in the cockpit jumpseat, correctly diagnosed the problem and saved the plane.” Sadly, the next day, the similar plane in the hands of a different crew faced an identical malfunction, and crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 aboard.
The jump seat pilot on the flight from Bali to Jakarta was from Lion Air's full-service sister carrier, Batik Air and told the crew to cut power to the motor in the trim system that was driving the nose down. The crew next day was unaware of this action and can be heard checking their quick reference handbook, a summary of how to handle unusual or emergency situations, minutes before they crashed, as per flight cockpit recordings.
FILE PHOTO: American civil aviation and Boeing investigators search through the debris at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 12, 2019. REUTERS.
The crew that saved the Lion Air flight did not pass on all of the information about the problems they encountered to the next crew, the report said. Lion Air spokesman Danang Prihantoro declined to comment on the role of a third pilot, saying, “All the data and information that we have on the flight and the aircraft have been submitted to the Indonesian NTSC. We can’t provide additional comment at this stage due the ongoing investigation on the accident.”
The flight data recorder shows the final control column inputs from the first officer were weaker than the ones made earlier by the captain. "It is like a test where there are 100 questions and when the time is up you have only answered 75," the third source said. "So you panic. It is a time-out condition."
The Indian-born captain was silent at the end, all three sources said, while the Indonesian first officer said "Allahu Akbar", or "God is greatest", a common Arabic phrase in the majority-Muslim country that can be used to express excitement, shock, praise or distress.
Some U.S. pilots have complained they were unaware of the new system, which is mentioned in the index of the aircraft's full manual but not the text, according to a version seen by Reuters. Airlines have some discretion to customise the manuals.
With Inputs from Reuters
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