Haryo Satmiko, deputy director of the National Transport Safety Committee, told CNN in a text message that, while the pings had been detected, investigators needed more “technical efforts” to find the exact location of the so-called “black boxes.”
Small pieces of debris and remains of some people on board the plane have been retrieved from the water off Jakarta, but the main body of the plane has been missing since it disappeared from radar on Monday around 6:30 a.m. local time.
Flight data sought
Ir. Suryanto, the head of National Transportation Safety Committee, told Indonesian television outlet TVOne on Tuesday that the “pings” had been detected no further than three kilometers from the group of eight current search points.
On Wednesday, Hadi Tjahjanto, commander of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, told the same broadcaster that search ships would focus on one particular point that they believe the pings could be coming from.
Search-and-rescue operations expanded to at least 400 square nautical miles Tuesday, with divers working to bring passenger remains and debris out of the water.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo joined search teams at Tanjung Priok port Tuesday, where debris is being sorted and recorded as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash. To date, no sizable parts of the wreckage have been retrieved.
Images of items fished out of the sea showed wallets, bags and other personal items, including a child’s Hello Kitty purse.
At a news conference Tuesday, Muhammad Syaugi of Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency said the identification process was proceeding as quickly as possible, but said it was unlikely the remains of all passengers would be found.
Boeing team on site
The Lion Air plane was a brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Lion Air acquired the jet in August and it had flown only 800 hours, according to Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC).
A team of Boeing investigators arrived in Indonesia Wednesday at the request of Indonesia’s local regulatory authority, Boeing press officer Kevin Yoo told CNN.
The aircraft is one of the company’s newest and most advanced jets, one of 11 such planes in Lion Air’s fleet. In a statement, Boeing said the company was “deeply saddened” by the loss and offered “heartfelt sympathies” to passengers and crew on board, and their families.
Indonesian aviation authorities ordered the inspection of 12 other Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts belonging to commercial airlines in the country.
Cause of crash remains a mystery
Flight 610 was carrying 181 passengers, as well as six cabin crew members and two pilots, from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, on the Indonesian island of Bangka.
Around 19 kilometers (12 miles) after takeoff, it made a request to air traffic control to return to the airport but did not indicate there was any emergency.
Radar data shows that the plane did not turn back, and air traffic controllers lost contact with it soon after, Yohanes Sirait, spokesman for AirNav Indonesia, the agency that oversees air traffic navigation, told CNN.
David Soucie, a former safety inspector with the US Federal Aviation Administration, said the fact that an emergency wasn’t declared should be a cause for concern.
“What’s most peculiar to me is the fact that they didn’t declare an emergency. They just simply said, ‘We’re going back’,” said Soucie, a CNN safety analyst.
“But when I look at the track of the aircraft after that, the aircraft made a very steep dive after that which is not typical of what they would’ve done,” he added. “They would have maintained altitude and made that turn and come back to (the airport).”
The plane had reported problems the night before on a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta, but engineers had checked and repaired the issue and given the plane clearance to fly, Lion Air Chief Executive Edward Sirait told local media.
AirNav Indonesia said the flight would have been given a priority landing spot had it declared an emergency.