Indonesia blames pilot for Garuda crash

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JAKARTA, Oct 22 (Reuters) An Indonesian transport safety committee today blamed the chief pilot of a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737 for the plane's crash at Yogyakarta airport in March that killed 21 people.

The committee's report said that 15 warnings were ignored as the pilot in command of the Boeing 737-400 with 140 people on board descended steeply, leading to an excessive increase in airspeed.

The Garuda plane bounced and skidded off the runway before bursting into flames in a rice field. Both pilots survived the crash, which happened less than three months after an Adam Air aircraft disappeared with 102 passengers and crew on board.

The accidents prompted the European Union to ban all 51 Indonesian airlines, including Garuda, from its airspace on safety grounds, putting the Southeast Asian nation's air safety record under public scrutiny.

The aircraft ''was flown at an excessive airspeed and steep flight path angle during the approach and landing, resulting in an unstabilised approach,'' the report said.

''The pilot in command did not follow company procedures that required him to fly a stabilised approach, and he did not abort the landing and go around when the approach was not stabilised.'' The report said that the pilot's attention was ''fixated'' on landing the aircraft on the runway, and that ''he either did not hear, or disregarded the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) alerts and warnings and calls from the co-pilot to go around''.

FLAWS IN SYSTEM Despite the findings, the transport safety committee refused to attribute the crash to ''human error'' or ''pilot error''.

''By calling it so we will blur the attention to the need of improving the Indonesian aviation safety system,'' Tatang Kurniadi, head of National Transport Safety Committee, told a news conference.

''The pilot is not 100 percent at fault, there were flaws in the system that has led to the accident as well.'' Transport Minister Jusman Shafi'i Djamal said the findings of the report could not be used as a basis for a criminal investigation or evidence in court against anybody.

''Based on ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) regulations, the report cannot be used for liabilities so it cannot be used for a police investigation. The report only served the purpose of preventing of future incidents or accidents,'' Djamal told reporters.

Survivors of the crash have described how the aircraft approached the runway in Yogyakarta at a ''crazy'' speed.

Five Australians were among the casualties. They were part of a group that had been accompanying Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was not on board the plane, on a visit to Indonesia.

Rapid growth in air travel in Indonesia, a country of more than 17,000 islands, has raised questions over whether safety has been compromised and whether the infrastructure and personnel can cope with the huge increase.


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