It was unclear whether human error was a factor, and Sirait said the pilot was experienced, logging 10,000 flying hours. However, Indonesian aviation analyst Ruth Simatupang, a former investigator at the National Safety Transportation Committee, suspects some sort of miscalculation involving the landing.
“Something was obviously wrong with the pilot, and wind shear is a possibility that could lead to an unstable approach,” she said. Sudden changes in wind speed or direction can lift or smash aircraft into the ground during landing.
The pilot and co-pilot will be grounded for two weeks for tests to ensure they were healthy during the flight and for questioning by investigators. They also have undergone alcohol and drug testing, and the preliminary results were negative, Herry Bakti Gumay, a Transportation Ministry official, told a news conference Sunday. In the past two years, three pilots, one co-pilot and a flight attendant from Lion Air have been arrested for illicit drug use.
The airline said it planned to suck the remaining fuel from the undamaged tanks in the plane’s wings before towing it at high tide to avoid destroying the area’s coral reefs. Bali is one of Asia’s most popular destinations, drawing millions of vacationers with its world-class surf and beautiful beaches.
Rapidly expanding Lion Air is Indonesia’s top discount carrier, holding about a 45 percent market share in the country, a sprawling archipelago of 240 million people that’s seeing a boom in both economic growth and air travel. Including Sunday’s crash, the airline has been involved in seven accidents since 2002, four of them involving Boeing 737s and one resulting in 25 deaths, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s website.
Lion Air is currently banned from flying to Europe due to broader safety lapses in the Indonesian airline industry that have long plagued the country. Last year, a Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet-100 slammed into a volcano during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people on board.