Lion Air, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, have been the brunt of a scathing preliminary report following a crash on April 13 just off Denpasar airport in Bali of a brand new 737-800. The plane, had been delivered brand new to Lion Air in February, 2013 and had only 142 hours of flying time. It was found to be airworthy. Four of the 108 (101 passengers and seven crew) on board, were seriously injured in the incident when the plane hit the water and broke up.
According to The National Transportation Safety Committee (Indonesia’s air safety authority), the junior pilot who was flying the plane, had only had 1200 hours of flying experience, 923 of them on 737s. The Pilot had 7,000 hours of experience on 737s. The captain took control of the plane at an altitude of 50 metres (150 feet) after the junior pilot had repeatedly said he couldn’t see the runway, following a squall. Control was switched at 1 minute, 6 seconds before the crash.
The pilot then attempted a ‘go around’ at an altitude of only 6 metres (20 feet), one second before the crash.. The plane hit the water at the end of the runway. The site was within wading distance of the airport’s sea wall. navigational aids and approach guidance facilities including the runway lights at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport were all “functioning properly” at the time of the crash.The interim report notes another flight that also experienced the loss of visibility caused by the sudden onset of the rainy conditions at Denpasar chose to go around not long after Lion Air’s crash landing.
The National Transportation Safety Committee in Jakarta recommended Lion Air:
- emphasise to pilots the importance of complying with the descent minima of the published instrument approach procedure when the visual reference cannot be obtained at the minimum altitude.
- “review the policy and procedures regarding the risk associated with changeover of control at critical altitudes or critical time”
- To ensure the pilots are properly trained during the initial and recurrent training program with regard to changeover of control at critical altitudes and or critical time.
Lion Air’s co-founder Rusdi Kirana said he would respect the outcome of the investigation, but said: “It is important not to give people the impression that we don’t have proper procedures. We take safety seriously, we are a profitable airline and we are not going to limit our budget on training and maintenance.”
The cause of the crash has massive implications for Lion Air’s reputation. In my post about the crash on April 14, I mentioned that Lion Air like most Indonesian airlines is banned from European and American airspace over safety issues. Lion Air have now had seven landing “incidents” in the last decade, one of which led to 25 deaths in 2004. I opened a poll (now closed) asking: Would you fly Lion Air, one of the world’s fastest growing budget carriers?:
80 percent of my respondents said Not Ever: e.g. “Wow, I was planning on flying them between SIN and DPS. Given this recap of their history, I am going to spend a few bucks more and go with Jetstar”
- 12 percent said only if much cheaper
- 8 percent said Without hesitation: eg: “I will continue to fly Lion, no problems. Safe travels everyone.”
Lion Air has two record breaking orders for new craft in. One with Airbus, signed in March this year for 234 A320s, the biggest commercial airline order in history and one signed two years ago with Boeing for 230 Boeing 737s, the second biggest order in history. They no doubt will be waiting for the outcome of the final report into the crash due out in 12 months. This report may cause their expansion plans to stumble or hopefully lead to massive overhaul of their safety. Brand new planes, attractive friendly crew members, cheap fares are not enough to guarantee airline success. There needs to be a new culture of safety. Otherwise they may find that 80 percent of their target markets will desert them.