Jakarta, October 30: India has a very grief-stricken connection to the latest air disaster in Indonesia. The pilot who captained the ill-fated flight which crashed into the sea on Monday with 188 passengers and crew on board while en route to Pangkal pinang city, Indonesia’s tin-mining hub, was Bhavye Suneja from Delhi.
The Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the sea off Java, an island of Indonesia just 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport. The flight lost contact with ground officials and crashed in the Java Sea.
The flight carried 178 adults, 1 child and 2 infants, including 3 crew under training and 1 technician, the airline said in a statement.
The aircraft was commanded by Captain Suneja and co-pilot Harvino with six cabin crew members.
The 31-year-old captain has 6,000 flight hours and the co-pilot more than 5,000 flight hours, the statement said. Captain Suneja was a resident of Jakarta originally from New Delhi. He attended Ahlcon Public School in Mayur Vihar.
According to his Linkedin profile, he had been working at Lion Air since March 2011 and was also a trainee pilot with Emirates from September and December 2010.
Suneja who lived in Jakarta with his wife Garima Sethi, was expected to visit his parents for Diwali. He had married Garima only about two years ago. In Captain Suneja’s family are his father Gulshan Suneja, who owns a medicine supply business, mother Sangeeta Suneja, a senior manager (cargo) with Air India, a younger sister.
The plane was delivered in August and had 800 hours of flying time. It sank in waters about 30 to 35 metres depth, north off the coast of Java island. The aircraft had only begun its operation as Lion Air on August 15 this year.
Flight tracking data from the Flightradar24 website, which tracks air traffic in real time, showed the aircraft climbed to around 5,000 feet before losing, and then regaining height. It then began falling towards the sea. It was last recorded at 3,650 feet and its speed had increased to 345 knots, the website showed.
Indonesian investigators are desperately trying to find the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to help determine the cause.
According to a spokesman for Indonesia’s air navigation authorities, the pilots had asked to turn back to base shortly before losing contact with air traffic control.
Lion Air is a privately owned budget carrier which was founded in 1999. The only fatal accident in its history to date was in 2004 when a MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City killing 25 of the 163 people on board.
-Shalin Singh with Agencies