Lion Air crash: Off-duty pilot had identified plane malfunction just a day before plane crashed
An off-duty pilot sitting in the cockpit had identified the system's malfunction while the Boeing 737 Max 8 was flying to Jakarta from Bali and experienced issues
New details from the Indonesian Lion Air plane crash that killed all 189 passengers on board have revealed that the aircraft had been saved from disaster by a third pilot just a day before the tragedy.
The doomed Boeing 737 MAX 8 had reportedly malfunctioned on an earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta, an ongoing investigation into the October accident revealed. However, it avoided catastrophe after an off-duty pilot stepped in to rescue the aircraft, Daily Mail reports.
A faulty automated anti-stalling system which had recently been introduced in the plane's later models had caused the aircraft to nosedive, authorities believe. Now since the voice recorder contents from the Lion Air flight have been made public, reports state that the cockpit voice recorder revealed that the pilots of the doomed Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX scrambled through a handbook to understand why the jet was lurching downwards in the final minutes.
In a conversation with Bloomberg, sources familiar with the investigation claimed that the extra pilot was in the cockpit when he quickly identified what was wrong and was successfully able to disable the faulty system on time. Sources also said he advised the crew to stop the motor which had been pulling the nose down - a procedure all pilots are usually familiar with. On October 29, just a day after the close call, flight JT-610 was headed to Pangkal Pinang and suffered the same issue. However, the crew in control at the time was unable to save the jetliner.
Just minutes after take-off, Pilot Bhavye Suneja asked ground control to return to the airport citing "technical difficulties." While the return was approved, the aircraft abruptly vanished from the radar as it plunged 5,000ft into the Java Sea. A report released by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee just weeks after the crash did not contain details of a third pilot onboard.
A Lion Air spokesman told Bloomberg that the airline could not comment on the incident pending investigation. "All the data and information that we have on the flight and the aircraft have been submitted to the Indonesian NTSC," he said.
The plane had reportedly suffered a series of malfunctions on earlier flights and was never properly fixed, the report states. Nonetheless, the crash of an Ethiopian Airliner on March 10 that killed all 157 people on board was the final straw, prompting multiple countries to bar the Boeing 737 Max 8 from their respective airspaces.
Having said that, experts have now raised questions over the model's newly introduced safety feature - the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) - which was originally designed to prevent the planes from stalling or losing lift.