Indonesian divers hear 'pings' as they zero in on Lion Air wreckage


Representatives with the USA -based aviation company were flying to Indonesia Wednesday to meet with officials with budget airline Lion Air, which has ordered 50 of the new 737 MAX 8 planes at a cost of $6.2 billion.

Indonesia stepped up a hunt for the black box of a crashed Boeing Co. jet after four days of scouring the sea only yielded a damaged flight data recorder, prolonging the mystery on what could have downed the Lion Air plane.

Lion Air has acknowledged that the twin-engine jetliner had also experienced a technical problem during its previous flight, from Bali to Jakarta on Sunday, though maintaining that it was "resolved through maintenance procedures issued by the aircraft's factory".

Herson said Reuters wrongly quoted him as saying the Lion Air plane had sought to return to Bali.

It could take up to three weeks to download data from the black boxes and up to six months to analyze it, Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of a national transport safety committee (KNKT), said on Wednesday.

Some reports suggest the aircraft had technical faults, while other experts say they're looking at the possibility of a bomb being involved.

The Lion Air crash was "not the first" aviation trouble in Indonesia, he said.

Divers searched for victims and high-tech equipment was deployed as reports emerged of problems on the jet's previous flight that had terrified passengers.

Data from the doomed flight shows the plane was struggling with erratic speed and altitude levels during the brief time it was in the sky. Only body parts have been found so far. According to the Guardian, citing data from FlightRadar24, a flight-tracking website, the jet displayed unusual variations in altitude and air speed in the first few minutes of flight before stabilizing and flying on to Jakarta.

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It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia in more than two decades and renewed concerns about safety in its fast-growing aviation industry, which was recently removed from European Union and USA blacklists.

This morning, Indonesia's military chief said he believed the plane had been located, and a transport safety official said divers would be sent to confirm a "ping" signal picked up by a search and rescue team late yesterday.

Indonesian authorities had been using so-called "pinger locators" in an attempt to find the aircraft's blackboxes, an informal term for its cockpit voice and flight data recorders. There were 189 people on board, including two babies.

The pilot and co-pilot had more than 11,000 hours of flying time between them and had undergone recent medical checkups and drug testing, it added.

Passengers on a previous flight on the two-month-old aircraft had reported problems including terrifying descents, odd engine noises and a burning smell.

In a statement on Wednesday, Lion Air said it has fired its technical director.

The tragedy has raised questions about the safety record of a country whose airlines were for years judged too risky to fly over Europe.

Lutfiani, left, shows an undated picture of her husband, Deryl Fida Febrianto, a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, at her house in Surabaya, Indonesia, on Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration lifted that ban in August 2016.

Indonesia is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets.