JAKARTA: Indonesia's transport ministry said on Tuesday (Jan 12) that a Sriwijaya Air jet that crashed into the sea three days ago had passed an airworthiness inspection last month, as a search continued to recover the plane's two black box recorders.
The Boeing 737-500 plane with 62 people on board plunged into the Java Sea on Saturday, four minutes after taking off from Jakarta's main airport.
The Transport Ministry said in a statement that the plane, which had been grounded between March and December last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, passed an airworthiness inspection on Dec 14.
The plane flew five days later with no passengers and then resumed commercial flights on Dec 22, the ministry said.
Initial findings by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) showed a jet engine was running when it hit the water, based on damage seen on parts retrieved from the sea.
"The damage on the fan blade showed that the engine was still working on impact," KNKT chief Soerjanto Tjahjono said in a statement.
"This is consistent with the hypothesis that the plane's system was still working at an altitude of 250 feet (76m)," he said, noting the plane was transmitting data at that altitude.
Indonesian police made the first identification of a victim from the crash on Monday. Flight attendant Okky Bisma was identified by his fingerprints, said a police official.
"My super kind husband ... Heaven is your place ... Until we meet again darling," Okky's wife, who is also a flight attendant, wrote on her Instagram account.
In a separate post, she wrote that she was lucky to have met Okky who "always pampered me", along with a picture of them together with a sunset in the background.
The plane was headed on a domestic flight to Pontianak on Borneo island, about 740km from Jakarta, before it disappeared from radar screens.
It was the second major air crash in Indonesia since 2018, when 189 passengers and crew were killed when a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX also plunged into the Java Sea soon after taking off from Jakarta. The jet that crashed on Saturday has a largely different design.
Divers have narrowed down an area where the flight recorders, known as black boxes, are believed to be, but search efforts have been hindered by debris, officials said.
A remotely operated vehicle had been deployed to help scour the seabed, while navy vessels with sonar searched from the surface.
Once the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are found, the KNKT expects to be able to read the information in three days.
With few immediate clues on what caused a catastrophic loss of control after take-off, investigators will rely heavily on the flight recorders to determine what went wrong.
The Sriwijaya Air plane was nearly 27 years old, much older than Boeing's problem-plagued 737 MAX model. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the stall-prevention system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.