No Argument among Garuda Crash Pilots: Minister

JAKARTA ~ Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa denied the pilots of a Garuda Indonesia jet had argued about its speed moments before it crash-landed last month, killing 21 people.

“That’s a lie; that’s not true,” Rajasa said of the claim that the Boeing 737 jet’s cockpit voice recorder showed that the pilot and co-pilot, who both survived, had argued about the plane’s speed before the crash.

The head of the country’s Transport Safety Committee, Tatang Kurniadi, told Australian television that the recorder revealed the dispute ahead of the March 7 tragedy in Yogyakarta.

But Rajasa told the cabinet that he met the committee on Monday for an update on the crash probe and it had rejected the reports.

“They told me that the reports saying that there was an argument between the pilot and co-pilot, that was recorded by the black box, were not true,” the minister said.

Kurniadi reportedly said he thought the recording showed the co-pilot wanted the captain to abort the ill-fated descent.

Survivors said the plane was traveling at a “crazy” speed before it landed hard, slid off the end of the runway and caught fire. Five Australians were among the 21 people killed on board.

The pilots, who were suspended after the crash, reportedly blamed a strong gust of wind.

Rajasa called for patience rather than speculation, saying the committee would complete its analysis of the black box recorder soon.

The crash was the second airliner disaster in Indonesia this year. An Adam Air plane plunged into the sea off the island of Sulawesi on New Year’s Day, killing all 102 on board.

The government is trying to improve transport safety record following a string of deadly plane and ferry disasters.

It has devised a new assessment system in which no domestic airline scores highly for safety, while others face closure unless they improve.

Experts blame the recent death toll, which runs into the hundreds, on lax standards, old planes and ships and insufficient investment despite booming passenger numbers.

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