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Preliminary Report Shows Engine Thrust Imbalance in Sriwijaya Air 737 Shortly Before Crash

An initial investigation into last month’s Sriwijaya Air crash in Indonesia is raising concern about the 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 jet’s engine-control system and the airline’s maintenance procedures.

Although the investigation is ongoing, a preliminary report released by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) stated that an engine thrust imbalance eventually caused Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 to roll and dive into the Java Sea, resulting in the death of all 62 people on board.

Engine Auto-Throttle Abnormalities

According to the report, both autothrottles were “experiencing anomalies” when the plane reached 8,150 feet, in which the left autothrottle moved too far back while the right throttle did not move at all and appeared to be stuck. At approximately 10,900 feet, the autopilot disengaged and the plane rolled more than 45 degrees to the left before it started to dive.

As discussed in our initial report of this aviation crash, insiders close to the investigation had informed reporters shortly after the January 9th SJ 182 crash that it was suspected a malfunctioning automatic throttle may have resulted in one of the engines producing significantly more thrust than the other, which would make the 737 jet exceedingly difficult to control and cause it to bank hard to one side or descend rapidly.

The malfunctioning automatic throttle could prove to be another major blow to Boeing, which has faced considerable backlash over a string of deadly airline disasters. As aviation attorney Clay Robbins notes, Boeing’s 737 platform “has a history of autothrottle issues.”

Preliminary Reports Raises Additional Areas of Focus

In addition to concerns about engine thrust imbalance, the KNKT preliminary report calls attention to additional areas of focus in the ongoing investigation. This includes:

  • Maintenance history: According to investigators, maintenance logs indicated there had been two prior problems with the 737’s autothrottle system, but that the issue was rectified on January 5, four days before the crash. Investigators will further review the maintenance history of the aircraft and the autothrottle.
  • Cockpit voice recorder: Divers are continuing their search for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder, which may help investigators understand actions taken by the pilots. Both pilots were experienced and given upset recovery training under new policies adopted by Sriwijaya in the wake of the Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 crash in December 2014.
  • Pilots: Continued review of the pilot’s performance and training
  • Operations: Review of human factors that may have played a role in the crash

As is standard, KNKT’s preliminary report detailed factual information regarding the crash, but did not suggest or speculate on potential contributing factors. Investigators will continue to sift through the evidence to determine what other factors may have been involved.

Boeing Issues Flight Operations Technical Bulletin Reinforcing “Importance of Active Monitoring” for Pilots to “Prevent Airplane Upsets”

Days after the Sriwijaya preliminary report came out, Boeing released a safety bulletin reminding pilots of necessary steps to maintain aircraft control. While the safety warning does not specifically mention the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crash, it does address issues the pilots may have faced prior to the fatal crash.

"Loss of control in-flight remains the single greatest cause of fatalities in commercial aviation,” the bulletin reads. “This bulletin is meant to reinforce the importance for active monitoring of the airplane state while managing the airplane flight path.”

According to aviation attorney Clay Robbins, the technical bulletin is business as usual for a Boeing, which has a history of blaming pilots for disasters involving its aircraft. “We’ve seen this before with Boeing. Instead of taking a good hard look at any mechanical or design issues that may have been involved in SJ-182 crash, the company is quick to cast the pilots as inattentive. We believe the pilots lost control because something went wrong with the aircraft.”

Aviation Attorneys with International Experience

Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman extends our deepest condolences to all those affected by the tragic Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crash.

We have represented hundreds of clients in aviation and airline accidents and we understand the time it takes for the investigation to conclude the cause of this devastating crash. We encourage surviving family members of this tragedy to be cautious about any settlement offers or legal documentation that seek a release of claims. These offers often provide far less compensation than victims’ families are entitled to receive.

Our aviation legal team is available to provide a free review of documents or offers pertaining to the Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 crash, and to discuss the legal rights of families who lost loved ones.

Call (855) 948-5098 or contact us onlineto speak with an attorney from our Los Angeles office.

For local help in Jakarta or for those who may have difficulty with the English language, please contact Imran Muntaz & Co. (+622129333800).

Untuk bantuan lokal di Jakarta atau bagi mereka yang mungkin mengalami kesulitan dengan bahasa Inggris, silakan hubungi Imran Muntaz & Co. (+622129333800).

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