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Sriwijaya Air 737 search teams rule out mid-air breakup

written by Adam Thorn | January 13, 2021

Indonesian authorities have ruled out the possibility that the Sriwijaya Air 737 that crashed into the Java Sea broke up in mid-air.

It comes as search teams announced they had now recovered one of the two missing black boxes. Divers are still yet to recover the second cockpit voice recorder, but military chief Hadi Tjahjanto said he was confident it would be recovered soon.

The 26-year-old 737-524 plunged more than 10,000 feet in less than a minute on Saturday, with 62 thought to be on board.

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On Wednesday, authorities revealed they had finally recovered one of the black boxes after finding its location a number of days ago. It will, however, take two to five days to extract the information contained within it.

Indonesia’s transport ministry also revealed the aircraft passed an inspection on 14 December, flew five days later with no passengers but then resumed commercial flights on 22 December.

Finally, Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) said it believed a jet engine was still running when the 737 hit the water, based on damage seen on parts recovered.

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“The damage on the fan blade showed that the engine was still working on impact,” KNKT chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said – apparently ruling out a mid-air break-up. “This is consistent with the hypothesis that the plane’s system was still working at an altitude of 250 feet.”

Earlier this week, World of Aviation reported an eyewitness account from one local fisherman, Solihin, who told the BBC, “The plane fell like lightning into the sea and exploded in the water. It was pretty close to us, the shards of a kind of plywood almost hit my ship.”

Flightradar24 released data shortly after the incident revealing that the 26-year-old Sriwijaya Air 737-524, PK-CLC msn 27323, crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta on 9 January 2021. It departed at 07:36 UTC (14:36 local time) and the last ADS-B signal was received by Flightradar24 just four minutes later at 07:40 UTC.

Significantly, it was recorded climbing to a maximum altitude of 10,900 feet at 07:40:06, but then began a sharp decline that saw it plunge to just 250 feet at 07:40:27.

Sriwijaya Air’s chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, said the near 27-year-old plane had been in good condition before the flight, while a Boeing spokesman said, “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information.”

Sriwijaya Air took delivery of PK-CLC in 2012, but it was originally delivered to Continental Airlines in 1994. The aircraft is operated by two CFM56-3C1 engines.

So far, only one body has been fully recovered from the wreckage, and was later identified as 29-year-old flight attendant Okky Bisma.

Bambang Suryo Aji, the director of operations for the search and rescue agency looking for the aircraft, said it received an alert at 2:55pm local time that Sriwijaya Flight 182 had lost contact.

A transport ministry spokesperson added that air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport asked the pilot why the plane was heading north-west seconds before it disappeared.

Sriwijaya Air’s chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, said the near 27-year-old plane had been in good condition before the flight, while a Boeing spokesman said, “We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information.”

Sriwijaya Air took delivery of PK-CLC in 2012, but it was originally delivered to Continental Airlines in 1994. The aircraft is operated by two CFM56-3C1 engines.

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