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Lion Air denies pilot training problems ahead of crash findings

Airline says crew had been cleared to fly new Boeing plane

Lion Air cabin crew take part in an evacuation drill in the airline's training center outside Jakarta. (Photo by Erwida Maulia)

TANGERANG, Indonesia -- Indonesian investigators on Monday said they will release later this month initial findings of an ongoing investigation into the Lion Air plane crash that killed 189 people, as the airline denied that its pilots were inadequately trained.

The preliminary results will be issued on Nov. 28 or 29, Soerjanto Tjahjono, chief of the National Transportation Safety Committee, or KNKT, told local reporters. "We will publicize the findings on the internet."

The results will include analysis of data from a flight recorder retrieved from the crash site in Karawang Bay, northeast of Jakarta. A search remains ongoing for the cockpit voice recorder, which is believed to be buried in the mud under waters crossed by oil and gas pipelines.

KNKT investigators last week said data from the flight recorder showed the plane -- a Boeing 737 Max 8 that had only been in service for two months -- had suffered from a faulty airspeed indicator in its last four flights, including the one that crashed into the sea on Oct. 29.

Lion technicians had replaced one of the plane's angle-of-attack (AOA) sensors to deal with the indicator problem at the airport in Bali the night before the crash. Flight 610 crashed 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta on a scheduled one-hour flight to Bangka island the next morning.

KNKT investigators also said last week that pilot training should be reviewed to discover why pilots on Flight 610 could not handle a problem that appeared similar to what the previous flight had experienced. Those pilots managed to land the plane safely despite what passengers described as a "very scary" flight.

Lion on Monday gave journalists a tour of its training center for pilots, cabin crew and engineers in Tangerang, a city outside Jakarta.

The director of the Angkasa Training Center, Dibyo Soesilo, said that adequate training has been provided, including for pilots of Boeing 737 Max 8s. He said pilots are only allowed to fly these aircraft when they have logged enough hours on Boeing 737 NGs -- the previous series -- and conducted additional requirements specific to the Max.

"Pilots have been trained properly," Soesilo said. "The pilots [on Flight 610] should have been capable of flying it."

"We don't know their situation, though. That has to wait for investigation results," Soesilo said.

He added that KNKT performed an audit of the training center shortly after the accident.

Boeing last week issued a new safety bulletin for Max 8 pilots, "directing operators to existing flight crew procedures to address circumstances where there is erroneous input from an AOA sensor," the aviation company said.

Soesilo said the new instructions have been included in Lion's flight simulator training for pilots.

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