Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed the crash of Lion Air flight, JT610, adding that it lost contact with ground officials 13 minutes after takeoff, and a tug boat leaving the capital’s port saw it fall.
“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter. “We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.”
He said that items such as handphones and life vests were found in waters about 30 metres to 35 metres (98 to 115 ft) deep near where the plane, identified by air tracking service Flightradar 24 as a Boeing 737 MAX 8, lost contact.
“We are there already, our vessels, our helicopter is hovering above the waters, to assist,” Syaugi said. “We are trying to dive down to find the wreck.”
Suneja joined Lion Air in 2011
Suneja, a resident of Mayur Vihar who passed out of the locality’s Ahlcon Public School in 2005, joined Indonesian Low Cost Carrier (LCC) Lion Air in March 2011 where he flies the Boeing 737. The VP of a leading airline in India that operates the Boeing 737 said Suneja, 31, was considering returning to India.
“We spoke this July. He is a very sweet sounding person. Being an experienced pilot of the B737 with an incident, accident free record, we were keen to have him with us because of his good credentials. His only request was that he wanted a Delhi posting as he is from the city,” said the senior official.
“Since most of the pilots are from north India and they want Delhi posting, I told him that once he flies with us for a year we will consider his posting in Delhi. He wanted our assistance in getting an Indian ATPL (commander’s licence). Some other pilots from Lion Air have also joined us recently,” said the official.
“We all hope and pray that Suneja and all others on the plane survive. We are all praying right now,” the senior official of the Indian carrier said.
According to his Linkedin profile, Suneja, 31, got his pilot licence from Bel Air International in 2009. After that, he joined Emirates as a trainee pilot in September 2010 and remained there for four months. In March 2011, he joined Indonesian low-cost airline Lion Air that is based in Jakarta.
Suneja’s Facebook page shows him a happy family man. An October 2016 picture shows his Captain’s hat and epaulettes with four stripes. Presumably, this is when he graduated to a captain from the first officer.
The aircraft involved in the crash is Boeing 737, Max. Indian carriers, Jet Airways and SpiceJet, have ordered hundreds of this aircraft. The Max which crashed onMonday had joined Lion Air fleet on August 15, 2018, and had flown for 800 hours. Captain Bhavye Suneja and co-pilot Harvino were operating Monday’s fight JT 610. According to Lion Air, Suneja has 6,000 flight hours of experience and the co-pilot has 5,000 flight hours.
(With inputs from agencies)