A safety audit will test claims that bad weather caused the Kaimana crash

Indonesian government blames bad weather for fatal air crash

The Indonesian government has blamed bad weather for the crash of an MA-60 turboprop in the sea off Kaimana.

Merpati Airlines flight MZ 8968 was travelling from Sorong city to Kaimana in west Papua on 7 May with 27 passengers and crew members on board. It went down into the sea in heavy rain and strong winds 500m from the runway of Utarung Kaimana Airport after its starboard wing snapped.

Transport Minister Freddy Numberi told press that bad weather caused the crash. When asked what the claim was based on Numberi said he rarely heard of technical problems involving Merpati’s aircraft. However, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the safety audit.

The aircraft broke into several pieces on impact, and 20 divers from the Indonesian Search and Rescue Team were called in to search for the crash victims. None survived, and the bodies of all 25 have been found, along with the plane’s flight recorder.

Ministry of Transport officials, aviation authorities and representatives of Xi’an parent AVIC 1, have started detailed investigations.

The aircraft went into commercial service with state-owned Merpati on 23 October 2010 and at the time of the crash it had logged only 615 flying hours.

The crash is Merpati’s third since 13 April 2010 when a Boeing 737-400 short-landed the runway in heavy rain at Rendai Airport in Manokwain, Papua province. The fuselage buckled on impact.

On 13 January a MA-60 aircraft which was on a roll for take-off at the El Tari Airport in Kupang province aborted take-off at almost lift-off speed. The aircraft, which sustained damage, remains parked at the airport and has yet to be repaired. Merpati officials declined to give details of the aborted take-off.

The vast Indonesian archipelago, which relies heavily on air transport, has the worst safety record in Asia. In 2007 the European Union banned all Indonesian carriers from EU airspace, citing poor safety standards following a string of fatal accidents, though ten named airlines have since been removed from the blacklist, including national flagship Garuda and, in the most recent update, four cargo carriers.

Thirteen of the 51 affected airlines have gone out of business, with six having their air operating certificates revoked by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in Jakarta for poor maintenance despite repeated warnings to correct oversights.

DGCA spokesman Eddie Yusuf said all 37 Indonesian carriers currently in operation with the exception of Wings Air had passed the safety audit carried out by the local regulatory body.

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