At this early stage, Indonesian officers nonetheless do not know why the Boeing 737 out of the blue plunged out of the sky inside minutes of takeoff.
Hours after the airplane crashed Saturday afternoon, authorities started a grim seek for the 62 passengers and crew on board.
Whereas it’s too early to invest on what induced the Sriwijaya Air catastrophe, and it must be famous that the airline has a robust security file with no casualties on board in 4 incidents recorded within the database of the Security Web of the aviation, for me it introduced again an uncomfortable reminiscence, which speaks to the broader challenge of aviation safety in Indonesia.
One morning in October 2019, another airways canceled their departures from Kalimarau airport amid dangerous climate. At first, my colleagues and I assumed we had been fortunate when our Sriwijaya Air flight went forward and airport staff accompanied us on our 55-minute home path to Balikpapan.
However moments after takeoff, our airplane started to rock and crash.
The stress within the cabin elevated because the turbulence grew more and more violent. We had been flying by means of darkish storm clouds.
It did not assist that the airplane seemed previous, with threadbare upholstery and cracked plastic trays that jogged my memory of the previous airplane that served Russia within the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There was a quick respite, when daylight momentarily filtered by means of the home windows.
However then the sky darkened once more, and the plane’s pitch and lower worsened.
I seemed round and noticed a lot of the passengers sitting with their eyes closed, silently murmuring in prayer. Much more alarming, the airline attendant tied to her seat within the entrance was additionally praying.
All of the sudden there was a flash of sunshine exterior the airplane and a deafening crash that I felt at my ft by means of the cabin ground.
At that second, I used to be afraid an engine would catch fireplace. “So that is the way it ends,” I keep in mind pondering. I immediately regretted that I might by no means suggest to the lady who’s now my spouse.
In hindsight, I consider it was lightning instantly on or close to the plane, though this was by no means confirmed.
Quickly after, the airplane stabilized. We landed on time and safely in Balikpapan. However everybody, together with the CNN colleagues I used to be touring with, was clearly very shocked.
One in all them, our Indonesian producer Masrur “Jamal” Jamaluddin, advised me that when the passengers disembarked, the person subsequent to them requested to attend a number of minutes to face up as a result of his legs had been nonetheless shaking.
That evening, Jamal, a veteran Indonesian journalist, advised me a couple of terrifying expertise he had had on a home Garuda flight to Indonesia in 2004.
Minutes after takeoff, Jamal recalled, he started to listen to loud banging from the airplane. “After which hastily the airplane was nostril down so my physique was pushed ahead. Everybody on the airplane was screaming,” he mentioned.
Jamal mentioned the emergency masks got here off the roof. The airplane stabilized briefly, however then went into one other steep drop.
“Folks began shouting once more. I heard (folks saying) ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Jesus’,” he mentioned.
Jamal mentioned the airplane ultimately circled and made a protected emergency touchdown at its authentic departure airport.
“From what I keep in mind, nobody defined what occurred,” he says. Though Jamal mentioned he reported the incident to his Indonesian information group, he mentioned his editors by no means bought the story.
“I nonetheless do not forget that as soon as in my life I promised Allah that in the event you give me a second probability I shall be a greater model of myself. As a result of I used to be so afraid of dying,” he mentioned.
Indonesia Air Security Register
All through his profession, Jamal has lined a number of tragic air disasters in Indonesia. We labored collectively after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash on October 29, 2018, which killed 189 folks.
For days, we sat in the primary port of Jakarta, watching as nationwide search and rescue boats and Indonesian Navy ships returned from the Java Sea, depositing the particles, baggage, and bodily stays of the victims within the concrete pier.
Bereaved family made harrowing journeys to the port to determine the belongings of their family members.
The lonely picture of youngsters’s sneakers, neatly lined up on a white canvas within the harbor, is etched in my reminiscence.
A yr later, an investigation concluded that the primary explanation for that catastrophe was a design flaw in Lion Air’s brand-new Boeing 737 Max eight.
That very same downside, which despatched blended messages between the Max eight’s autopilot system and sensors, induced the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airways Flight 302 in March 2019, 5 months after the Lion Air catastrophe.
Years after Lion Air’s grim vigil, Indonesian authorities are as soon as once more utilizing the identical Jakarta port because the hub for search and rescue efforts for Sriwijaya Air Flight 182.
With Lion Air, Indonesia grew to become the sufferer of deadly errors at Boeing that led to the grounding of Max eight plane around the globe.
However Indonesia has darkish spots in its personal flight security file.
In 2007, the European Union barred all 51 Indonesian airways from its airspace after a Garuda Indonesia airplane with 140 folks on board left the Yogyakarta runway in March and burst into flames, killing 21 folks in board.
In a separate lethal incident in 2014, AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea, killing 162 folks.
The EU licensed all Indonesian airways in 2018, “following additional enhancements within the aviation safety state of affairs that was decided within the nation.”
Indonesia can not perform as a contemporary republic with out air transport. It’s a enormous archipelago of greater than 13,000 islands that stretches throughout 4 time zones. In line with the CAPA-Middle for Aviation, air passenger site visitors tripled in Indonesia between 2005 and 2017.
Airways like Sriwijaya Air shall be central to that journey, and it is actually not truthful to guage the airline primarily based on my solely terrifying expertise on certainly one of their planes.
Boeing’s function within the Lion Air catastrophe additionally revealed the risks of leaping to conclusions after a airplane crash.
Now we have to await the outcomes of the investigation, whereas on the similar time extending our condolences to the handfuls of struggling households who at the moment are ready to know the destiny of the passengers and crew of Flight 182.
Though I had a terrifying expertise flying in Indonesia, all the opposite flights I’ve been there have been easy and on clear new planes.
Indonesia’s aviation community has made it simple to journey to a sulfur-spewing volcano, browsing waves in Bali, the jungles of Borneo and the new, steamy streets of the capital Jakarta.
Sometime when this pandemic recedes, I shall be delighted to fly again to Indonesia.
Hopefully I can be part of Jamal on one other island hopping flight by means of his nation.
And if we do run into turbulence, as I nervously seize the armrest, I take consolation in the truth that Jamal shall be praying subsequent to me.