Lion Air plane must be cut up to avoid damaging reefs
April 16, 2013, Bali, Indonesia - Indonesia's Transport Ministry said Monday that a Lion Air jet stuck in shallow water on the resort island of Bali after a crash landing on the weekend must be cut into pieces for removal.
Officials initially planned to tow the Boeing 737-800 aircraft that split in two, but have now determined it is too heavy and must be cut into several parts to avoid the possibility of damaging the area's coral reefs, said ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan.
He said divers have also faced difficulties removing the cockpit voice recorder from the plane's partially submerged tail.
All 108 passengers and crew on board survived Saturday's crash and no one was seriously injured. The plane slammed into the water short of the runway at Bali's Ngurah Rai airport and snapped in two. The cause remains under investigation.
The accident has raised questions among some analysts about whether budget carrier Lion Air may be putting growth ahead of safety. The airline stunned the aviation industry two years ago when it announced the biggest-ever order for Boeing planes — 230 jets in all — at an event with President Barack Obama. It made headlines again last month after signing a $24 billion deal to buy 234 planes from Airbus, the French aircraft maker's largest order ever.
The pressure to keep planes flying, coupled with the difficulty of finding enough qualified pilots can create a bad recipe, said Tom Ballantyne, a Sydney-based aviation expert.
"It's certainly an issue for fast-expanding airlines,'' he said.
Lion Air is Indonesia's top discount carrier in a country of 240 million people where air travel is booming. The airline has had
seven accidents since 2002. Most were minor and all but one occurred during landing, according to the Aviation Safety Network's website. The worst crash in 2004 killed 25 people.
Lion Air is currently banned from flying to Europe due to broader safety lapses in the Indonesian airline industry that have long
plagued the country.