Lion Air Copilot Handed Control to Pilot Just Before Bali Crash

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee found that the copilot of a passenger jet operated by PT Lion Mentari Airlines handed control to the pilot just before it crashed off Bali’s main airport last month.

The 24-year-old copilot, with 1,200 hours of flying experience, relinquished control of the Boeing Co. 737-800 passenger jet when it was at an altitude of 150 feet, NTSC said in a 28 page preliminary report posted on the Ministry of Transport website. He told the senior pilot he couldn’t see the runway twice during the approach, the report says.

Lion Air should “review the policy and procedures regarding the risk associated with changeover of control at critical altitudes or critical time,” the report says. It doesn’t indicate the cause of the crash.

Indonesia’s investigation into at least its fourth aircraft accident in 16 months focuses attention on Lion Air, the country’s biggest private carrier, just as it plans an expansion. The Jakarta-based airline has placed orders of more than $45 billion with Airbus SAS and Boeing in the past two years and has 559 narrow-body planes pending, the world’s biggest backlog.

Lion Air is banned from the European Union, which blacklisted Indonesia’s airlines after a number of fatal accidents. The country’s flag carrier, PT Garuda Indonesia, and three other operators were allowed to return to Europe in 2009.

The report also recommends Lion Air “ensure pilots are properly trained during the initial and recurrent training program with regard to changeover of control at critical altitudes and or critical time.”

Runway Visibility

The copilot was second-in-command and “Pilot Flying” from the plane’s departure from Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java, until few moments prior to attempting to land at Ngurah Rai Airport.

He said twice during the approach that he couldn’t see the runway as the weather changed from clear, four minutes before the crash, to rain a few seconds prior to the incident, according to the report.

The pilot-in-command, 48 with 15,000 flying hours, took control of the aircraft and decided to abort the landing one second before the aircraft crashed into the sea, the report said. All 108 passenger and crew survived the April 13 crash.

The aircraft’s manufacturing date was Feb. 19 and its airworthiness certificate was issued March 21. It had almost 143 flying hours and had completed 104 cycles, according to the report. One cycle is defined as one takeoff and landing.

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