Lion Air: How could a brand new plane crash?

The MAX 8 series has only been operating commercially for less than a year

Lion Air flight JT 610 has crashed into the sea, with nearly 190 people on board, shortly after taking off from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

A lot of attention has focused on the fact the plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, was brand new. This is the first major incident involving that kind of plane.

Details so far have been scant and the cause will not be confirmed until a full investigation has been carried out.

Plane crashes are often the result of a combination of factors – both technical and human – but could the fact that the plane was so new have played any part?

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 has only been in commercial use since 2017.


Budget carrier Lion Air said in July it was “very proud” to be the first in Indonesia to deploy the plane, and that it had ordered as many as 218 units.

The plane involved in Monday’s incident has only been in operation since 15 August.

It had logged only 800 hours of flight time, according to the head of the National Transportation Safety Commission, Soerjanto Tjahjano.

The pilot is reported to have radioed air traffic control in Jakarta asking for permission to turn back, shortly after taking off.

Lion Air’s chief executive said the flight had suffered from an unspecified “technical problem” in a previous flight, but that it had been “resolved according to procedure”, Reuters reports.

Edward Sirait said Lion Air was currently operating 11 aircraft of the same model. He said there were no plans to ground the rest of the planes.

‘Snags’ sorted quickly

Aviation analyst Gerry Soejatman told the BBC that “very old aircraft are usually at the highest risk [of accidents], but very young aircraft also carry a high risk”.

“If it’s very new there are sometimes snags that only reveal themselves after they are [used routinely]. These usually get sorted [within] the first three months.”

The plane would have hit the three month mark in just a few weeks.

However, another aviation analyst, Jon Ostrower, said new planes generally “enjoy a maintenance holiday because everything is so new, not the reverse”.

Mr Ostrower, editor of aviation publication The Air Current, said there were “always new teething issues… that’s common, but a far cry from something that would threaten the safety of an airplane”.

Both analysts said it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about what went wrong with Flight JT 610.

“It’s likely to be technical issues that caused it but it’s still very early days. We can really [only determine the cause] when we get more information,” said Mr Soejatman.

Mr Ostrower echoed this.

“I don’t know what would make a plane this new crash. There are so many different factors that can contribute to an accident like this,” he told the BBC.

According to Boeing, the 737 MAX series is the fastest-selling airplane in its history, and has accumulated almost 4,700 orders.

The MAX 8 has been ordered by airlines including American Airlines, United Airlines, Norwegian and FlyDubai.

News Credits: BBC