Crash and Burn


Podcast Episode 1

A loud sound of an engine rumbling and whirring. Suddenly, multiple warning alarm sounds start at once. 

Alarm: Stall warning! Stall warning! 

Amanda: Issac? What’s wrong? What’s happening? 

Alarm: Pull up now! Pull up now! 

Alarm: Engine failure! Engage backup hydraulics now.  

Amanda: Shit. Shit! Come on, come on. 

There is a continued frantic beeping in the background and metal creaking and groaning. There are sounds of switches being flipped back and forth. 

Alarm: Too low. Terrain. Too low. Terrain. 

The relentless chimes, automated warnings and alarms reach a high. Suddenly, a loud crackle and a foreign voice emerge, staticky and muffled. 

Amanda: Mayday, Mayday, this is SA A310! Lost the engine!

Air Traffic Control: A310? Are you there? Please advise. 

Amanda: Just a little further. Come on, goddamn it.

The engine starts howling and there is the sound of metal wailing. Metal rattles persistently. Then, a loud crash into the water and waves crashing against metal. 


Channel News Asia theme playing. 

CNA Reporter: At least 86 people have been killed during a fatal airplane crash into the Java Sea on Saturday. The plane, a Spirit Airlines Airbus A310, took off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and dropped from the sky 5 minutes after takeoff. Among the deceased is Captain Isaac Lim, who was found in the remains of the cockpit alongside unconscious First Officer Amanda Yi who is currently in the hospital. Information is still coming in so keep watching to find out more.

Antara News Channel theme playing. 

Antara Reporter: The latest SA A310 crash in the Java Sea has been reported to be the deadliest crash ever in Indonesia. 241 passengers out of the 250 onboard have been declared deceased, including the captain himself, who leaves behind his wife and son.  Now, the only sources of information left is from either the surviving First Officer or the cockpit black box, which has not been recovered yet. But the question everyone is asking is, how does an airplane fall out of the sky? 

Antara News Channel theme starts playing again. Then, there is a moment of silence. 

News channel theme plays.

Reporter: It has been 3 weeks since the devastating crash of SA A310. The Airbus aircraft was flying above the Java Sea when it seemed to dive out of the sky out of nowhere and hurtle towards the seafloor. Due to the nature of the crash, not much of the plane wreckage has been recovered, including the cockpit voice recorder which is vital to the investigation. Here is an eye-witness clip of the crash taken from a beach nearby. 

In the background, there is a distant whooshing sound. There are murmurs of people talking in English and Indonesian in the background. Then, there is a loud shout that cuts through the air, followed by the loud explosion-like sound. There is a shrill scream that sounds out before it is drowned out by the splashing of water. 

Reporter: From preliminary findings, it seemed like the left engine failed midair, causing the plane to dramatically plummet from its height at 37,000 feet. But then the plane seemed to semi-stabilise seconds before the crash. This phenomenon is so far unexplained. If this was a case of equipment failure, that plane would not have recovered so quickly. This might cause one to wonder, whether the crash was a result of machinery failure, or simply, pilot error. 

There is a moment of silence. 

There is a loud car horn that sounds out, and then the sound of traffic and cars seem to come alive. Then there are sounds of cameras flashing and many people talking at once. 

Amanda: Excuse me, please, excuse me. 

Reporter 1: Amanda! Amanda! Any comments on the plane crash? 

Reporter 2: Miss Yi! What do you have to say about the government’s investigation of the crash so far?  

Reporter 3: Miss, do you have anything to say about the crash? Is there a reason you have yet to speak out? 

Amanda: (strained) It… wasn’t just my fault. Please get out of the way.

Reporter 4: Miss Amanda! Over here! Is it true that you and Captain Lim were very good friends?

Amanda: What? 

The loud sounds of the reporters and cameras fade in volume suddenly. 

Amanda: (defensively) Where did you hear that from? Isaac was a good captain… and he was my best friend… he would never do something like that. 

The sounds of reporters and cameras return, louder and more overwhelming than before. The different reporter’s calls seem to merge into the noise. This continues for a few more seconds before it suddenly fades away. Then, there is the loud sound of a car door slamming shut. 

Amanda: (breathless) Thanks for picking me up.

Hannah: Of course I would.

There is the loud sound of a car engine rumbling and turning on. A soft background song plays faintly in the background. 

Hannah: Are you okay? I haven’t seen you this shaken since that very first day in the hospital three weeks ago. What happened in there?

Amanda: (deep, shaky breaths) I… I…. The meeting didn’t go so well.  I kept telling them that the engine was already too far gone. But they think I could’ve stopped the plane from crashing. As if I wanted the plane to crash. 

Hannah: Is that why they want you to go to court? Do they think it’s your fault?

Amanda: If they find something wrong with the plane, then I won’t be at fault. If they found the engine, I’m sure that they’ll see but now with the plane shattered into pieces and lost…. And you never know with the NTCB…

Hannah: Don’t worry about the NTCB. If you’re telling the truth about what happened everything will be fine. If you’re sure…

Hannah: You know, the past few weeks we’ve been talking about your case and the trial and everything. But we haven’t really talked about you. I know I agreed to be your lawyer, but I’m your sister too. 

Amanda: What is there to talk about?

Hannah: What do you mean what is there to talk about? Amanda, you nearly died in that plane that day. There was a chance that I would never ever be able to see you again. I remember the fear I had when I first heard about it. I was so scared that you would be one of those who died that day. 

Amanda makes a choked sound, a sob threatening to spill out. 

Hannah: Amanda? 

Amanda: (voice shaky) That’s the thing isn’t it. So many people died that day. And I lived.

Hannah: Yes you did, I don’t get — 

Amanda: I was the co-pilot. Those people that died, because of me, and I’m here…

Hannah: Amanda… I know what you’re thinking. And you yourself said the engine was already broken. And it wasn’t just your fault, I’m sure of it. These things you just can’t predict. The engineers, the airplane manufacturers… And besides, you weren’t the only one in the cockpit that day. Isaac — 

Amanda: No. It wasn’t his fault. 

Hannah: I know you two were close but you can’t shoulder the blame on your — 

Amanda: (voice rising frantically)  No. You don’t understand. Isaac didn’t do anything wrong.

Hannah: Okay okay, calm down. I’m just saying that — 

Amanda: Stop. Just stop talking. You know what stop the car too. Forget it, I’ll just walk home. 

There is the sound of a car door handle being jiggled in place. 

Hannah: Amanda don’t be like — 

She is interrupted by the sound of the car door slamming. Then, silence. 

News channel theme plays. 

Reporter: 40-year-old pilot Amanda Yi will appear in court on Tuesday to testify in front of a panel of judges regarding the Airbus A310 crash that has been inciting wildfires among civilians and aircraft experts alike. Will the pilot’s court appearance finally settle the uncertainties regarding this unorthodox yet devastating crash? 

Spirit Airlines was flying from Jakarta to Singapore when it slammed into the Java Sea with 250 people aboard. Upon impact, the plane shattered into millions of pieces and spread across the bottom of the sea. Here are some interviews that have been conducted over the past few days. We conducted a few interviews with the deceased next-of-kin, such as Miss Roosmin and Mr Setiawan. 

Static, and then slowly transitions to a noisy street. In the background, there are sounds of people talking loudly as well as sounds of traffic.  

Alisa Roosmin: (teary) My mother was flying over to visit my family and me to celebrate her 65th birthday. But now we cannot celebrate anything at all. We couldn’t even say goodbye, But when we got to the morgue, well, they told us there were no bodies, none at all… just… parts of bodies. 

Mr Setiawan: I brought my son to the airport for his flight… he goes to school in Singapore… And then now suddenly he’s gone. There is no body, no burial, and no explanation. Who will take responsibility for my son? 

Static again, the ambient sounds fade away. 

Reporter: The crash investigation and recovery mission, which has cost almost US$3.5 million and involves hundreds of boats, divers and government officials has yet to find the elusive black box. The black box, which contains the cockpit voice recording, could possibly hold all the answers needed. Today here with us is Mr Zahra, who is a professor of aviation at Gadjah Mada University. 

There is static, as the audio switches to a recording. 

Mr Zahra: Ever since the crash, I have poured over every single piece of evidence available. I have discussed and argued with many other professors, from Indonesia, Singapore and the world. And, I have come to the conclusion that it seems like the cause of the crash was not any machinery failure but instead pilot error. 

Reporter: So in your expert opinion, what did the crew do correctly and what did they do wrong? 

Mr Zahra:  We recovered data of the plane that indicates that the left engine was idle during the crash.  But there would have been warnings if the pilots were not aware of the engine failure. Obviously, the reaction of the pilots to the warning was incorrect.

Reporter: Do you believe this was a recoverable crash? 

Mr Zahra: Yes, very much so. In fact, this leads us to question things like the training of the pilots, and their qualifications. More than two hundred people died in that plane due to possible negligence. Those people put their trust in Spirit Airlines, into the hands of the captain and crew. If my theory is correct, and the fault lies in the pilots, then there must be — 

There is the sound of a button being pressed, and the sound of the news report immediately cuts out. There is the sound of a phone number being dialled. 

Amanda: (voice shaky) Hannah? Are you there? 

Hannah: Amanda? Why are you calling now? I thought you didn’t want to talk to me. 

Amanda: What if it really was my fault? What if the engines were actually fine? What if I could have saved all these people?

Hannah: Hey hey, calm down. You are a great pilot Amanda, you know everything about planes. If you truly believed the engine was — 

Amanda: But what if I was wrong? Oh god, all those people… When we go to court… 

There is a long pause of silence, the only audible sound is the static from the phone call. 

Hannah: Amanda… I know you think that I don’t really understand you but I want you to know that I’ve always known you as the best pilot out there. If you thought that you did everything you could, then I want you to know that I believe you. 

Amanda: You’re only saying that because you’re my sister. 

Hannah: We will be fine. I’ve handled cases like this before. If you’re sure about what happened that day… I won’t let anything bad happen to you. We just need time. Once they find the engine, and they find that it was broken all along… then they’ll know. 

Amanda: And if it’s not? What if they never find it? 

Hannah: Why are you suddenly doubting yourself? If we can’t find the engine then they’ll find the cockpit voice recordings. I’m sure of it. 

Amanda: (suddenly alarmed) The recordings? Of the cockpit? Do you really think they’ll find it? 

Hannah: Yes… why the extreme reaction? 

Amanda: (quickly) Nothing. It’s nothing. 

Hannah: Amanda… is there something you’re not telling me? I know I agreed to be your lawyer but if you’re leaving out information, this isn’t going to go well. Is there something in the recordings that I need to know about?

Amanda: (strained) No. There’s nothing. I hope they find it. 

The phone hangs up. 

There is an audible click of a recorder being started, and a tape starts rolling. 

Interviewer: Today here with us on live TV we have the First Officer of the SA flight A310, Amanda Yi. This is her first time speaking to the public since the accident happened 2 months ago. Miss Yi, could you please share with us exactly what you remember. 

Amanda: It was just supposed to be a routine flight, along a route we’ve always been familiar with. Nothing bad was supposed to happen, everything was supposed to be fine… 

Interviewer: So what went wrong? 

Amanda: (hesitantly) It was right after takeoff. Isaac was supposed to handle the throttle, that’s the captain’s job. But then suddenly he told me he was sick, and then suddenly he wasn’t there anymore. 

Interviewer: Mr Lim told you he was unwell? 

Amanda: Yes. I wasn’t supposed to handle the throttles, not that I couldn’t, I mean I could but — But with Issac unconscious, I didn’t know what to do, I had to save him. 

Interviewer: (shocked) Wait, Mr Lim fell unconscious in the cockpit? Mid-flight? 

Amanda: Yes. 

Amanda: After that, I didn’t know what to do. I had to save him, but then the engine… 

Interviewer: Miss Yi, are you saying that your Captain Lim fell unconscious in his seat, and you could not handle the plane on your own, causing it to crash?

Amanda: There was so much going on, I didn’t know what to do.

Interviewer: Is co-pilot incapacitation something that you have been previously briefed for? 

Amanda: Well yes, but — 

Interviewer: So you had been trained for a situation like this? 

Amanda: Yes I had been but things were different that day, the engine… The engine wasn’t working properly. 

Interviewer: So what went wrong? 

Amanda: I… I don’t know. 

Interviewer: You don’t know? You can tell us anything Miss Yi, we just want to help uncover the truth. 

Amanda: It’s just not that simple okay? When Isaac collapsed I tried to save him, but then all the warnings went off and I just didn’t know what to do. By the time I tried to stabilise the plane the engine blew out and I just couldn’t do anything more. It’s not that easy, being thousands of feet in the air and having the weight of over 200 people on you.

Interviewer: (rapidly, harshly) 200 people that you, Miss Yi, failed to save. 

There is a pause, and the sound of Amanda inhaling sharply. She takes a deep breath.

Amanda: I’m sorry, what was the point of this interview again? 

Interviewer: From what you have said, it seems like you tried to save your co-pilot first, before attending to the plane. (pause) Is this true? 

Amanda: (slowly) I mean… I was confused… I didn’t know what to— 

Interviewer: (quickly) Do you think this lapse in this reaction time could have been the reason for the crash? 

Amanda: What? I mean, no. Like I said before, the engine was the reason for the crash. 

Distant whispers can be heard, as the interviewer is conversing with someone far away, but the words are indecipherable. 

Interviewer: (slyly, upbeat) Well Miss Yi,  my sources tell me that the black box containing the audio recordings of the cockpit was just recovered. Will the recordings reveal anything else that you haven’t spoken about?

Amanda: (panicked) The CVRs? They found it intact? 

Interviewer: Yes. (pause) You sound nervous Miss YI, is there anything wrong? 

Amanda: No… nothing is wrong. 

Interviewer: If everything you claim is true, ’m sure you are looking forward to your name finally being cleared after the investigators listen to the recording, right? 

Amanda: (muttering) Yes… the recordings.

There is a thick silence, the only thing that can be heard is the faint whirring of the tape recording rolling. 

Interviewer: (coyly) Interesting. 

Amanda: What? What’s interesting? 

Interviewer: We received an anonymous tip yesterday, from someone who claims to have worked closely with you and Mr Lim. They tell us that you two were close, very close, closer than two co-pilots usually were. 

Amanda: (nervously) What anonymous source is this? You can’t possibly believe — 

Interviewer: This would explain the frantic attempts to save his life, over the life of the other 200 or so passengers on board… 

Amanda: (shouting) Are you serious? No! 

Interviewer: But… if I am correct, wasn’t Mr Lim married with children? 

Amanda: (harshly) This interview is over. 

The tape recorder stops, there is a loud audible click. 

Emma Goh (Class of 2023) enjoys exploring the various complex layers in her character’s lives, hoping that one day she can discover the deeper meaning in her own.