Lion Air plane's airspeed indicator malfunctioned on four flights prior to crash
Data retrieved from the black box revealed aircraft's previous problems
Investigators announced the findings at a news conference on 5 November.
National Transportation Safety Committee chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono said: “When we opened the black box, yes indeed the technical problem was the airspeed or the speed of the plane.
“Data from the black box showed that two flights before Denpasar-Jakarta also experienced the same problem.
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“In the black box there were four flights that experienced problems with the airspeed indicator.”
It was already widely reported that the flight made by the aircraft prior to the crash, from Denpasar, Bali to Jakarta, Indonesia, had experienced problems with the airspeed indicator; now, data has suggested the same issues were experienced on the two flights beforehand.
An investigation has been launched into the safety of Boeing 787 MAX aircraft following the crash, which killed all 189 people on board.
“If there are urgent findings to be delivered, we will convey them to the operators and to the manufacturer,” Tjahjono said.
Relatives of the deceased have questioned why the aircraft was cleared for take-off after problems were reported on the previous flight from Bali, during which it experienced a rapid descent that scared passengers.
Bambang Sukandar, whose son was on the fatal flight, said: “Lion Air said the problem was fixed, is it true the problem was cleared?
“If not, technicians in charge must be responsible.”
He added: “The law is absolute, because they have stated that the plane was cleared to take off again.
“These bad technicians must be processed by law to prevent plane accidents from continuing in Indonesia.”
Investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said they were looking into the maintenance records to determine whether the airline took the correct steps and were right in deeming the plane airworthy.
“Currently we are looking for the cause of problem,” he said.
“Whether the trouble came from its indicator, its measuring device or sensor, or a problem with its computer.
“This is what we do not know yet and we will find it out.”
The aircraft is thought to have hit the water at high speed, indicated by the relatively small area in which debris was found.
“The plane was intact when it plunged to the sea, it did not explode in the air, and the aircraft engine was running when it touched the water at high RPM, it’s marked by the loss of all blades of the turbine,” said Tjahjono.
Search and rescue teams have so far recovered 140 body bags of remains; 14 people have been identified.
Divers are still looking for the second black box that would have recorded the conversation between the pilots in the cockpit before the crash.