Is Meth a Contributing Factor to Lion Air Crash?


Let’s revisit that recent Lion Air crash at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport (DPS). There have been news reports in the past year suggesting the use of methamphetamines by overworked pilots in Indonesia.

Not in the cockpit of downed Lion Air flight JT-904 (not quite, not yet). Nor are the reports of drug use limited to Lion Air.

After the story posted in The Tarmac, JT up at corporate FlyerTalk sent me one of those crystal meth news links with his signature “what’s up.”

Then an informed FT member, SLC2002, posted the following in the comments section (thanks SLC2002):

On a Lion Air flight to Lombok I had one of the roughest landings I’ve ever experienced. It felt like the pilots were trying to put the plane through the runway… Not sure if its (sic) the weather, pilot training or something else entirely. This accident doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

I told JT I’d come across drug-use reports in my schoolboy research but didn’t want to go there. (You all know what a hard-news guy I am. I just report the facts, right?)

But the stories of drug use keep coming and now Aviation Week reports “Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee has questioned the pilots [of Flight JT-904] and they have also undergone drug and alcohol tests, which they have reportedly passed.”

The pilots are temporarily suspended, which is standard practice during investigations.

Aviation Week also writes, “According to Denpasar airport weather data for the time of the crash, the wind was light at around 6 kt. and variable, with wind direction shifting between 110 deg. and 270 deg. There was also unlimited visibility and a few cumulonimbus and scattered clouds at around 1,700 ft., according to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network website.” (Winds at 110 to 270 are a huge variation and compatible with wind shear, but they were “light”.)

The Lion Air pilots blamed violent weather and wind shear. Passengers did not all agree. The Guardian quoted one passenger saying “there was no sign at all it would fall but then suddenly it dropped into the water.”

In 2012, The Jakarta Post reported “The Transportation Ministry says that it has sanctioned budget airline Lion Air because some of its pilots and crew members were found to be in possession of crystal meth in recent months.”

The rumors refuse to be ignored.

In another story, edging closer to the redline, they quote Indonesia’s puissant drug czar saying “pilots considered crystal meth as part of their lifestyle.” (No umms, no uhhs, no hesitations. Not exactly bringing inspiration to his soapbox.)

Let’s review:  There is no evidence that drug use played a role in the sad, and brave, events of Lion Air Flight JT-904. In a world of speculation, one and one does not always equal two.

I follow all that happens on Bali. I told JT I’ve spent the best and worst days of my life in Indonesia. I suspect I’ll have more of both there. All the while, keeping my tray table in the upright position.

Stay tuned. I’m on this, JT. Get back to your golf.


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Comments (Showing 3 of 3)

  • Doc Savage at 2:24am April 20, 2013

    What part of this….. stuff… is factual, sourced reporting, what part is random speculation, and what part is sophomoric giggling wordplay? You get reasonably close to getting youself in trouble here, especially under UK law.

    If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll have to begin acting like a serious journalist.

  • mountainpost at 3:21am April 20, 2013
  • a7800 at 5:30pm April 22, 2013

    Perhaps this journalistic gem could be entitled “Is Libel a Contributing Factor to getting these poorly written blogs off of the front page of flyertalk?”

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