JAKARTA, May 15 – Indonesian authorities blamed poor training for a crash in which a rookie pilot undershot the runway and landed in the sea off the resort island of Bali last month, according to a report seen Wednesday.
All 108 passengers and crew survived the spectacular April 13 crash, which split the new Boeing 737-800 in two and was a major blow to Lion Air, which has signed record plane orders but is trying to shake off its poor safety record.
The preliminary investigation by the National Transport Safety Committee found the 24-year-old Indian national at the plane’s helm was forced to hand control to the Indonesian captain since he could not see the runway upon descent.
The switch was made at 150 feet (46 metres) — below the minimum altitude considered safe to continue descending — and the captain ordered the plane to go around just one second before it crashed into the sea.
The report recommended Lion Air immediately implement several safety measures, such as reviewing “the policy and procedures regarding the risk associated with changeover of control at critical altitudes or critical time”.
The airline should also reiterate safety protocols related to minimum altitudes to its pilots, it said.
The report described a sudden change in weather, with clear visibility minutes before the flight landed changing to rain and very poor visibility seconds before.
While a full investigation will determine the exact cause, the preliminary report ruled out any fault with the aircraft.
Lion Air was little-known internationally until it struck two of the world’s largest aircraft orders worth a staggering $46 billion.
In March Lion Air ordered 234 medium-haul A320 jets worth $18.4 billion euros ($24.2 billion) from Europe’s Airbus to boost its expansion as air travel booms in the fast-developing nation of 240 million.
That order followed its $22.4 billion order for 230 Boeing 737 airliners in 2011.
But experts have raised concerns there is a lack of qualified pilots in Indonesia to fly the fast-increasing number of planes acquired by Lion Air.
Along with with most Indonesian airlines, it is banned from US and European skies for safety reasons.
Between 2004 and 2006 Lion Air suffered a series of six accidents which all involved planes overshooting or missing the runway. No one died.