JAKARTA: A search and rescue mission is under way for passengers of Lion Air flight JT610 after it crashed early on Monday (Oct 29).
The plane lost contact 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta at around 6.20am (7.20am Singapore time), a spokesman for Indonesia's search and rescue agency said.
It was due to have landed in Pangkal Pinang, on the island of Bangka, at 7.20am, the Flightradar24 website showed.
Indonesian rescue officials said that all 189 passengers and crew aboard the flight are likely to have been killed in the accident. Rescuers have begun retrieving human body parts as well as debris from the wreckage, with remains of a baby among those recovered.
In an update on Tuesday morning, Lion Air said human remains have been recovered in 24 body bags.
At least 10 bodies have been recovered and sent to the hospital for identification, said Muhammad Syaugi, head of BASARNAS, Indonesia's national search and rescue agency.
Additionally, 14 bags of aircraft debris and personal belongings of those on board the plane have also been retrieved.
Items such as handphones, handbags, identity cards and life vests were found in waters about 30 metres to 35 metres deep near where the plane lost contact with air traffic control.
"We hope we can see the plane's main body - everything on the surface of the water has been collected," Syaugi said.
Both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder are still missing.
An underwater acoustic beacon has been deployed to locate the main body of the plane.
In addition to 15 vessels scouring the sea surface, the search and rescue agency added that four sonar detectors were also deployed in areas where aircraft debris had been found a day earlier, off the shore of Karawang, West Java.
PASSENGERS AND CREW
There were 189 people were on board, including six crew members and two pilots. Two infants and a child were among the passengers.
The finance ministry said about 20 of its employees were on the plane.
Also on board was Andrea Manfredi, an Italian former professional cyclist.
Indonesian officials named the captain of the flight as Bhavye Suneja, who according to local media reports, has been identified as an Indian national who has been with the airline for seven years.
According to Lion Air, Suneja and his co-pilot, Harvino, had 11,000 hours of flying between them and had recent medical checkups and drug testing.
READ: ‘Everyone was crying’: Lion Air crash victims' families grow frustrated as authorities scramble for information
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 MAX, an updated and more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer's workhorse single-aisle jet. The first Boeing 737 MAX jets were introduced into service in 2017.
Lion Air took delivery of the aircraft, which was made this year, on Aug 13 - with its first flight two days later.
The plane with registration number PK-LQP had a technical problem on a previous flight but it had been resolved according to procedure, Lion Air's CEO said.
"This plane previously flew from Denpasar to Cengkareng (Jakarta). There was a report of a technical issue which had been resolved according to procedure," Edward Sirait told reporters, declining to specify the nature of the technical issue.
He said Lion has operated 11 aircraft of the same model, the Boeing 737 Max 8, and the other planes did not have the same technical problem. Sirait said there was no plan to ground the rest of its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet.
A BBC report said a technical logbook detailed an "unreliable" airspeed reading instrument on the Bali-Jakarta flight on Sunday and different altitude readings on the captain and first officer's instruments.
Copies of several Lion Air technical documents have been circulating on social media, but they could not be immediately confirmed as authentic.
Boeing suspended release of the 737 MAX just days before its first commercial delivery last year due to an engine issue, according to airline safety and product review site airlineratings.com.
It said the engines were a product of a joint venture between US-based General Electric and France's Safran Aircraft Engines.
Lion Air, Indonesia's biggest budget airline, is expanding the company. Earlier this year it announced a US$6.24 billion order for 50 Boeing 737 MAX 10 planes.
Lion has been involved in a number of incidents, including a fatal 2004 crash and a collision between two Lion Air planes at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport.
Preliminary flight tracking data from Flightradar24 shows the aircraft climbed to around 5,000ft before losing, and then regaining height before finally falling towards the sea.
It was last recorded at 3,650ft and its speed had risen to 345 knots, according to raw data captured by the respected tracking website, which could not immediately be confirmed.
Its last recorded position was about 15km north of the Indonesian coastline, according to a Google Maps reference of the last coordinates reported by Flightradar24.
Kompas TV in a news report cited an air traffic controller at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport as saying that takeoff was normal for the Lion Air flight. But after a few minutes, the pilot radioed back to request a return back to the airport.
The request was approved, but contact was lost shortly after.
"The plane crashed into water about 30 to 40 metres deep," search and rescue agency spokesman Yusuf Latif told AFP.
"We're still searching for the remains of the plane."
Videos and images of the plane's debris floating off the sea of Java have surfaced on social media.
A Reuters report described the Boeing plane as "literally" falling out of the sky, near where fishermen Budi and Gauk began their morning about 15km off the coast.
"You could feel the explosion from the shockwave in the water," said Gauk, who goes by only one name.