Lion Air Crash: Airspeed Indicator Failed on Final Four Flights

The airspeed indicator on the Lion Air flight JT 610 that crashed in Indonesia last week failed on each of the plane's four final flights, according to data recovered from the aircraft's black box flight recorder.

National Transportation Safety Committee chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono said a similar problem was observed on all four of the aircraft's final journeys, including the October 29 flight on which the Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the Java Sea, killing 189.

CEO Edward Sirait previously admitted problems with the plane's speed and altitude on its penultimate flight. Immediately after the crash, Sirait said that the technical problems had been resolved before the final flight.

"When we opened the black box, yes indeed the technical problem was the airspeed, or the speed of the plane," Tjahjono told a news conference Monday, according to the Associated Press. "Data from the black box showed that two flights before Denpasar-Jakarta also experienced the same problem," he continued. "In the black box there were four flights that experienced problems with the airspeed indicator."

Tjahjono noted that experts were now working with Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to investigate whether there were issues with the 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The plane that crashed last week had only been in operation since August. The Indonesian government has ordered an inspection of every 737 MAX 8 aircraft, the BBC reported.

Investigator Nurcahyo Utomo said the investigative team would review maintenance records to establish the problems reported, what repairs were carried out in response and what tests were undertaken before the plane was allowed to fly.

"Currently we are looking for the cause of problem," Utomo 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."

Rescue team workers unload a pair of tires from Lion Air flight JT 610 at a port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 5. AZWAR IPANK/AFP/Getty Images

On November 5, Tjahjono spoke to grieving family members at a meeting, explaining what information investigators had uncovered thus far. He said the debris from the crash showed that the plane was intact when it hit the water at high speed with its engines still firing.

Lion Air co-founder Rusdi Kirana attended the meeting but did not speak. At one point, a family member demanded that he identify himself. Kirana stood up, bowed his head and clasped his hands in prayer but did not say anything. After the briefing he left the room quickly, avoiding questions from reporters (as per Associated Press).

Most of the families were still waiting to identify their loved ones who died in the crash. Police had received nearly 140 body bags of human remains but have so far only identified 14 people. Several of those at Monday's meeting demanded to know why the plane had been allowed to fly given its recent history of problems, according to ABC News. Others criticized the airline's response to the tragedy, particularly its lack of communication with and empathy for the families of the victims.