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Indian pilot dead in Indonesian plane crash, PM Modi expresses grief


Press Trust of India Jakarta
Indian pilot Bhavye Suneja died on Monday after the Indonesian plane he captained with 189 passengers and crew on board the budget carrier crashed in the Java Sea, Indian Embassy here confirmed.
Suneja, 31, was flying the Lion Air flight JT610 which lost contact with the ground officials 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft en-route to Pangkal Pinang city crashed near Kerawang, 32 miles east of Jakarta.
"Our deepest condolences on the tragic loss of lives in the Lion Air Plane crash, off the coast of Jakarta today. Most unfortunate that Indian Pilot Bhavye Suneja who was flying JT610 also lost his life," Indian Embassy in Indonesia said in a tweet.
"Embassy is in touch with Crisis Center and coordinating for all assistance," it said.
According to media reports, all 189 passengers and crew are feared dead.
"My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the plane crash in Indonesia. May Almighty give them strength and courage in this hour of grief," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was in Japan for a bilateral summit with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The flight carried 178 adults, 1 child and 2 infants. The plane also had 3 crew under training and 1 technician, the airline said in a statement.
The aircraft was commanded by Captain Suneja and co-pilot Harvino with six cabin crew members.
Suneja has 6,000 flight hours and the co-pilot more than 5,000 flight hours, it said.
Captain Suneja was a resident of Jakarta. He is originally from New Delhi and attended Ahlcon Public School in East Delhi's Mayur Vihar.
According to his Linkedin profile, he had been working at Lion Air since March 2011 and was also a trainee pilot with Emirates from September and December 2010.
The plane was delivered in August and had 800 hours of flying time. It sank in waters about 30 to 35 metres depth, north of the coast of Java island. The aircraft was declared operationally feasible, the airline statement said.
Preliminary flight tracking data from the Flightradar website, which tracks air traffic in real time from all around the world, showed the aircraft climbed to around 5,000 feet before losing, and then regaining, height, before finally falling towards the sea.
It was last recorded at 3,650 feet and its speed had increased to 345 knots, the website showed.
The agency's chief Muhammad Syaugi told a news conference that divers were trying to locate the wreckage.
The top priority for investigators will be finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder to help determine the cause, a media report said, quoting safety experts.
The pilots had asked to turn back to airport shortly before losing contact with air traffic control, the report said, quoting spokesman for Indonesia's air navigation authorities.
Privately owned budget carrier Lion Air was founded in 1999 and its only fatal accident to date was when a MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City in 2004, killing 25 of the 163 people on board, according to the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety Network.

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First Published: Oct 29 2018 | 8:21 PM IST

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