A crashed Lion Air jet should have been grounded over a recurrent technical problem before its fatal journey, Indonesian authorities said Wednesday, as details from the new jet’s flight data recorder suggested that pilots struggled to control its anti-stalling system.
The preliminary crash report from Indonesia’s transport safety agency also took aim at the budget carrier’s poor safety culture but did not pinpoint a definitive cause of the October 29 accident, which killed all 189 people on board.
A final report is not likely to be filed until next year.
The Boeing 737 MAX vanished from radar about 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta, slamming into the Java Sea moments after pilots had asked to return to the capital.
Investigators said Lion Air kept putting the plane back into service despite repeatedly failing to fix a problem with the airspeed indicator, including on its second-last flight from Bali to Jakarta.
“The plane was no longer airworthy and it should not have kept flying,” Nurcahyo Utomo, aviation head at the National Transport Safety Committee, told reporters.
The findings will heighten concerns there were problems with key systems in one of the world’s newest and most advanced commercial passenger planes.
“But we don’t know yet whether it’s a Boeing or airline issue,” said aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman.