By Jon Emont, Andrew Tangel and Doug Cameron
A Boeing Co. passenger plane carrying 62 people crashed into the
Java Sea on Saturday, Indonesian authorities said.
The Sriwijaya Air jet lost contact with air-traffic controllers
and disappeared from radar minutes after taking off from the
country's capital, Jakarta, transport ministry officials said. It
was on a 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of
West Kalimantan province on Indonesia's Borneo island, and went
missing at 2:40 p.m. local time, a spokeswoman for the ministry,
Adita Irawati, said.
The aircraft involved was a 26-year-old Boeing 737-500,
according to Theodora Erika, a spokeswoman for Sriwijaya Air, which
is an Indonesian carrier. Sriwijaya flight SJ182 departed at 2:36
p.m. local time, climbing to a maximum altitude of 10,900 feet
about four minutes later and then beginning a steep descent,
according to aviation data provider Flightradar24. The last data
signal from the aircraft was at an altitude of 250 feet,
Boeing said in a statement Saturday that it was aware of the
reports from Jakarta and was closely monitoring the situation. "We
are in contact with our airline customer and stand ready to support
them during this difficult time," it said. CFM International, which
made the jet's engines, said it was providing technical assistance
to the authorities and the airline. CFM is a joint venture between
General Electric Co. and Safran SA.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it was prepared to
assist the National Transportation Safety Board's participation in
the probe if the Indonesian authorities make such a request.
The Boeing aircraft involved isn't the 737 MAX, the newest
version of the company's single-aisle jet family, which had been
grounded nearly two years ago following two deadly crashes.
Sriwijaya Air began operating the aircraft in 2012. Immediately
before that airline, the plane was flown by United Airlines,
according to Flightradar24. Boeing first delivered the plane in
1994 to Continental Airlines, a predecessor carrier to
Chicago-based United Airlines Holdings Inc.
Indonesian officials said at a news conference that of the 62
people on board, 12 were crew members. The plane was believed to
have crashed around Kepulauan Seribu, a series of islands near
Jakarta, the country's search and rescue agency said. The agency
said it had received reports from the local community that debris
had been found in the area and that it had launched an
Another government agency involved in the recovery said it had
prepared equipment for an underwater search, with the goal of
locating the airplane's black box on Sunday.
Indonesia television showed footage of passengers' relatives
crying at the airport while they waited for updates from
authorities. One elderly woman was seen making phone calls while
rocking back and forth in her chair in grief.
"Our prayers are with all passengers, crew and families,"
Sriwijaya Air said in a statement.
Recovering black boxes after a plane crashes into the sea can be
a protracted process. When an AirAsia flight crashed into the Java
Sea in 2014, it took about two weeks to recover one of the devices.
When an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed in
2009, it took about two years to recover the storage devices from
that plane. And they have not been recovered in the disappearance
of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
The 737 jet models that entered service around the same time as
the plane that crashed have a good safety record of roughly one
fatal accident per 4 million departures world-wide. That's
comparable to other widely-used Boeing models such the 757 and
wide-body 777 jets, though far above the rate for 737 models
According to Boeing's safety statistics, there was one fatal
crash in 2019 of such a vintage 737 Classic, an older model in the
737 family of jets.
For Boeing, the latest crash comes at a difficult time. The 737
MAX recently resumed passenger service with some airlines in
countries including Brazil and the U.S.
In November, U.S. aviation regulators cleared the 737 MAX to fly
again after they approved a number of safety fixes, which included
new software and training changes related to a flight-control
system, largely blamed in the two crashes, and revised pilot
training procedures. That flight-control system was new to the MAX
and not on older 737 models.
The two MAX accidents, in Indonesia in October 2018 and in
Ethiopia in March 2019, together claimed 346 lives. Boeing this
week agreed to a $2.5 billion deal that included a fine as well as
compensation to victims' families and airlines to resolve a U.S.
Justice Department criminal investigation and admit that employees
deceived aviation regulators about safety issues that led to the
twin MAX crashes.
The 737-500 Classic seats between 110 and 132 passengers. Boeing
rolled out the last Classic from its production line in 1999.
A relatively small number of 737-500s remain in operation around
the world. Of nearly 4,300 737s in service globally, there are only
94 of this older variant currently in operation, according to
aviation data provider Ascend by Cirium.
Indonesia, an archipelagic nation of 270 million, has seen a
rapid surge in air travel during the past decade as incomes have
risen and people have sought out faster forms of inter-island
transit. The country has suffered a number of air tragedies.
In the 2014 AirAsia crash, the jetliner went down amid stormy
weather, killing all 162 people aboard, with investigators
subsequently citing pilot error and maintenance lapses as major
causes. In 2013, a Lion Air flight crashed into the shallow waters
off Bali, though all passengers survived.
Indonesia's air-safety record has experienced major problems in
the past, with both U.S. and European regulators at various times
restricting flights of carriers based in the country. Regulators,
among other issues, cited lax government oversight, inadequate
pilot training and maintenance lapses. Statistics from the
International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency,
showed that Indonesian commercial flights had an accident rate
around three times higher than the global average from 2008 to
But in 2016, the FAA upgraded the country's status to the
highest ranking under the agency's international safety assessment
program, and by 2017, their ICAO record had come closer to the
global norm after a government campaign to improve the country's
air safety. In June 2018, the European Commission lifted all
restrictions against Indonesian carriers, citing safety
improvements. In 2019, Indonesia had an accident rate below the
global average, according to the ICAO statistics.
Doug Cameron contributed to this article.
Write to Jon Emont at firstname.lastname@example.org, Andrew Tangel at
Andrew.Tangel@wsj.com and Doug Cameron at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 09, 2021 17:31 ET (22:31 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.