Two passengers on the plane’s previous flight from Bali to Jakarta on Sunday have described issues that caused frustration and alarm. Alon Soetanto told TVOne the plane dropped suddenly several times in the first few minutes of its flight. “About three to eight minutes after it took off, I felt like the plane was losing power and unable to rise. That happened several times during the flight,” he said. “We felt like in a roller coaster. Some passengers began to panic and vomit.”
His account is consistent with data from flight-tracking sites that show erratic speed, altitude and direction in the minutes after the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet took off. A similar pattern is also seen in data pinged from Monday’s fatal flight. Safety experts cautioned, however, that the data must be checked for accuracy against the plane’s so-called black boxes, which officials are confident will be recovered.
In a detailed post online, Indonesian TV presenter Conchita Caroline said boarding of Sunday’s flight was delayed by more than an hour and when the plane was being towed, a technical problem forced it to return to its parking space.
She said passengers sat in the cabin without air conditioning for at least 30 minutes listening to an “unusual” engine roar, while some children vomited from the overbearing heat, until staff faced with rising anger let them disembark.
After about 30 minutes of passengers waiting on the tarmac, they were told to board again while an engine was checked. Caroline said she queried a staff member but was met with a defensive response. “He just showed me the flight permit that he had signed and he said the problem had been settled,” she said. “He treated me like a passenger full of disturbing dramas even though what I was asking represented friends and confused tourists who didn’t understand Indonesian.”