JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian divers yesterday retrieved a black box from a Lion Air passenger jet that crashed into the shallow sea off the coast of the capital, Jakarta, killing all 189 people onboard.
The device should provide clues to what went wrong after the plane lost contact with ground staff just 13 minutes after taking off early on Monday from Jakarta, on its way to the tin-mining town of Pangkal Pinang.
“We dug and we got the black box,” a diver, identified as Hendra, told broadcaster Metro TV on board a search vessel, the Baruna Jaya, describing how his team found the orange-colored box intact in debris on the muddy sea floor.
The diver said he had seen only “small pieces” of the aircraft, and the search had closed in on the black box because of the “ping’ signals it emitted.
The device, identified as the flight data recorder, would be handed over to Indonesia’s transportation safety committee (KNKT), authorities said.
The plane’s black boxes should help explain why the almost-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet went down.
It could take up to three weeks to download data from the black boxes and up to six months to analyze it, Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of KNKT, said on Wednesday.
With media speculating on the airworthiness of the aircraft, the transport ministry suspended for 120 days Lion Air’s maintenance and engineering director, fleet maintenance manager and the release engineer who gave the jet permission to fly on Monday.
Lion Air will also be subject to more intensive “on ramp” inspections compared with other airlines. Regulators will check 40 percent of its flights at random, compared with 10-15 percent for other airlines, minister Budi Karya Sumadi said.
President Joko Widodo had also ordered a review of all regulations relating to flight safety, Mr Sumadi said.
The government was also considering reviewing airfares and may increase ticket prices charged by low-cost carriers, he said, without providing details.
Lion Air said the aircraft had been in operation since August, adding that it had been airworthy and the pilot and co-pilot had 11,000 hours of flying time between them.
Investigators are looking into why the pilot had asked to return to base shortly after take-off, a request that ground control officials had granted, although the flight crashed soon after.