An Indonesian military plane that crashed in the country's third-largest city of Medan on Tuesday, killing 141 people, had a propeller "abnormality" that indicates an engine stalled, an air force official said Thursday, according to the Associated Press (AP). The Hercules C-130 transport aircraft, which was carrying 122 people, crashed shortly after takeoff from the Soewondo air force base in Medan.
Investigators suspect that the plane may have suffered an engine failure because it turned rightward after takeoff and was flying at a lower than normal speed, Air Marshal Agus Supriatna said, according to the AP, adding that the plane hit a 115-foot radio antenna before crashing. "By hitting the antenna, I imagine it certainly affected the plane," he said.
The search and rescue operations for the victims of the crash ended Wednesday, but the probe into the incident is ongoing.
Early findings into the crash suggest that the pilot "feathered" a propeller in order to reduce the tendency of the plane to swing in the direction of the failed engine, Supriatna said, according to the AP.
"If there was feathering that means the engine was dead," he said.
The incident also claimed the lives of people on the ground as the plane crashed into a residential neighborhood destroying several houses and vehicles. Authorities reportedly said that the wreckage of the plane has been removed from the crash site and the nearby roads that had been closed after the incident have been reopened.
The 51-year-old plane was on its way to Tanjung Pinang, capital of Indonesia's Riau Islands province, when the pilot informed the air control tower that the plane needed to turn back because of engine trouble. “The plane crashed while it was turning right to return to the airport," Supriatna reportedly said earlier.
The plane was carrying more passengers than earlier reported by the military, according to the AP. The plane was authorized to only carry military personnel and their families.
Following the crash, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered a review of the country's aging air force planes and other military hardware.
“There must be an evaluation of the age of planes and defense systems," he reportedly wrote on his Twitter account late on Tuesday. Widodo also expressed grief over the lives lost in the crash.