JAKARTA, Indonesia – A brand new Boeing Max 8 jet crashed into the Java Sea last week had problems with its airspeed indicator during its final four flights, Indonesian investigators said on Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Committee, which is in the process of investigating the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610, found that inaccurate airspeed readings continued for three days, despite the fact that it has been released on Thursday the plane has been cleared for takeoff.
The Max 8, the latest model of Boeing's workhorse 737, entered commercial fleets only last year. The plane that crashed a week ago was delivered to Lion Air, one of the world's fastest-growing low-cost carriers, in August.
"Max plans around the world," said Capt. "We think this is important. Nurcahyo Utomo, the Transportation Safety Committee's Lead Accident Investigator.
While there have not been any observations on the Max 8 has a systemic problem with airspeed readings, the model's newness has not yet manifest itself in other carriers' fleets.
Airspeed – investigators are also looking at the airplane.
"We just wanted to investigate what caused the damage and what had been done," said Captain Nurcahyo.
Lion Air has been a troubling record of at least 15 major safety lapses, but until last week the carrier, Indonesia's largest, had not had a fatal incident since 2004. The Indonesian Transportation Ministry is conducting a special audit into the low-cost airline's operations and operations safety standards.
It is not clear whether or not it is airborne. Airborne 610. But inconsistent airspeed readings gauge how fast a jet is going by looking out the window.
While pilots should receive multiple airspeed readings from probes, known as pitot tubes, mounted to the outside of the plane.
Previous crashes, like that of Air France Flight 447 over the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, have been traced to initial problem with incorrect airspeed readings catalyzing a fatal chain of events exacerbated by pilot confusion.
Lion Air Flight 610 took off from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, on Oct. 29, bound for the small city of Pangkal Pinang. Less than 15 minutes later, after an erratic, up-and-down flight path, the Max 8 plummeted into the sea with 189 people on board.
The plane hit the water so it's almost fragmented, investigators said. Divers have found no intact bodies.
By examining the maintenance log of the plane's flight from the day before the crash, aviation experts had already discovered that the single-aisle jet had problems with unreliable airspeed readings.
But confirmation of exactly what precipitated last week's crash will come with the further inspection of the so-called black boxes, the devices that record a plane's movements and data. The measured speed, altitude, temperature, flight control and cockpit steering, among other indicators.
Soerjanto Tjahjojo, the Chief of Transportation Safety Committee, said on Monday that the device contained 69 hours of information from 19 flights. Nearly 1,800 parameters were recorded in the black box, he said.
A second black box, which recorded cockpit conversations, has not yet been found, but Indonesian Navy divers have heard about it.