Garuda Crash Jet Landed too Fast, Says Investigator

JAKARTA ~ The National Transport Safety Committee confirmed this week reports leaked to Australian media that a Garuda Indonesia airliner that crash landed last month was flying too fast when it hit the runway.

The Boeing 737 slammed hard onto the runway in Yogyakarta on March 7, careened off the end of the air strip and burst into flames, killing 21 of the 102 passengers, including five Australians.

Australian media had quoted a confidential report saying the jet was traveling nearly twice as fast as normal when it hit the runway.

The Sydney Morning Herald said it had obtained a copy of the initial Indonesian report that pointed to pilot error as the main cause of the crash, and also claimed the Jakarta authorities were trying to suppress the report.

“The jet was flying at about 410 kilometers an hour. This was not a normal speed,” chief investigator Mardjono Siswo Suwarno confirmed after an official press conference on Wednesday.

Mardjono added the safety area at the end of Yogyakarta’s runway was not long enough to accommodate the speeding jet.

“If the area was long enough, the Garuda jet would not have caught fire,” he said.

A preliminary report released at the press conference stated the safety run-off section at the end of Yogyakarta’s runway was not a length of 240 meters – the minimum recommended under international aviation standards.

“It’s approximately 115 meters in length,” Mardjono said.

The chief investigator denied reports that the accident was related to human error.

He also denied reports that the pilots had been arguing about the jet’s speed moments before it crash landed.

Mardjono said a final report from the investigation into the crash would be delivered within four months.

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

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