Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 Crashes Off Jakarta Coast

Credit: Wikimedia / Alec Wilson

A Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crashed into the sea Jan. 9 after losing contact with air traffic control shortly after taking off from Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK) in Indonesia.

Flight SJ 182 departed for Borneo’s Pontianak Supadio Airport (PNK) at 2:40 p.m. local time, carrying 56 passengers and six crew. It reached a maximum altitude of 10,900 ft. (3,322 m) in its climb from Jakarta after a long right-hand turn toward and then over the sea. Immediately before impact and already well into its sudden and steep decline, the aircraft made a sharp right turn heading east, according to Flightradar24 data. The last contact with air traffic control was at 2:45 p.m., according to Indonesia’s transport ministry.

Flightradar24 data indicates that the aircraft lost 10,750 ft. of altitude in less than one minute, about four minutes after departure. 

Parts of the fuselage have been located and black box signals received, although it had not been recovered yet on Jan. 10. Thirty-eight ships and four aircraft were deployed for the rescue operation.

According to Fleet Discovery, part of Aviation Week Intelligence Network Fleet & Data Services, the aircraft was first delivered to Continental Airlines on May 31, 1994. Continental and—following its merger—later United continued to operate the aircraft until May 2012. Its new owner Celestial Aviation Trading leased the aircraft to Sriwijaya Air for seven years after which the airline acquired the aircraft in 2019. When Sriwijaya took over the aircraft in 2012, it had accumulated 45,361 hours and 24,308 cycles. 

PK-CLC had been put into storage on March 23, 2020. The aircraft is believed to have returned to scheduled service on Dec. 20, 2020, following a short 19-min. test flight on Dec. 18 from and to Surabaya airport and what is understood to have been a non-scheduled positioning flight to Jakarta on Dec. 19. Since then Flightradar24 has recorded 132 cycles. 

Sriwijaya CEO Jefferson Irwin Jauwena told local media that the aircraft had been in “good condition” before the flight. It was the fifth sector PK-CLC was to operate on Jan. 9.

Sriwijaya Air is a full-service carrier founded in 2003 and based at Jakarta. Its network is predominantly domestic, but the carrier also operated international flights to Penang in Malaysia and Singapore. PK-CLC was one of three 737-500s the airline operated alongside a fleet of eight 737-800s. The other two 737-500s—PK-CLE and PK-CLL—are also ex-Continental aircraft that Sriwijaya has operated since 2012.

According to Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network, the airline has been involved in four accidents prior to the crash of PK-CLC. In 2008, a 737-200 registered as PK-CJG was involved in a landing accident following a hydraulics failure at Jambi-Sultan Thaha Syarifudn Airport leading to one fatality and two serious injuries on the ground.  Several passengers were injured during another runway excursion at Yogyakarta of a 737-300 (PK-CKM) in December 2011. Six months later a 737-400 overran the runway of Pontianak-Supadio airport in heavy rain. No injuries were reported. A fourth incident, a runway overrun, took place in May 2017 at Manokwari-Rendani airport and involved a 737-300 (PK-CJC).

In November 2019, Indonesia flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia ceased its year-long partnership with Sriwijaya Air and also raised safety concerns of the now privately owned airline. One of the disputes arose when Sriwijaya declined to use Garuda’s maintenance facilities, which was part of the agreement. According to Indonesian paper Tempo, Sriwijaya Air director of quality, safety and security Toto Subandoro had recommended temporarily ceasing the airline’s operations after the Indonesian aviation regulator flagged issues in the carrier’s tools, spares and numbers of qualified engineers.

According to Aviation Week’s CAPA Centre for Aviation, Sriwijaya carried around 10 million passengers each in 2017 and 2018, but slightly less than six million in 2019.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.