Govt Says No To Grounding Merpati-Type Crash Plane

JAKARTA

The central government has rejected calls for Chinese-made planes operated by state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines to be grounded following a fatal crash at the weekend.

An MA-60 turbo-prop plane manufactured by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation crashed into the sea off Papua on Saturday as it was attempting to land in heavy rain, killing all 25 passengers and crew on board.

Officials have refused to comment on the cause of the accident, pending the result of ongoing investigations including examination of the black box flight data by Chinese authorities.

“We’re not barring the Merpati MA-60 planes from flying,” Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said on Wednesday.

“We’re confident of the airworthiness checks carried out by the Indonesian civil aviation authorities,” Ervan said, adding that the audits were in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.

Besides the wrecked plane, Merpati has acquired 12 other MA-60s since 2006, he said.

The crash was understood to be the first fatal accident involving an MA-60 anywhere in the world, but not the first scare for the aircraft’s operators in Indonesia, Ervan said.

“There were two previous incidents. In one case, the plane overshot the runway. Investigations are still ongoing for those cases,” he added.

Lawmakers on Wednesday urged Merpati – one of the Indonesian airlines banned from European airspace since 2007 – to ground its fleet of MA-60s until they could be fully audited.

“We think the management should stop all MA-60 flights,” lawmaker Achsanul Qosasi was quoted as saying by the Detikcom news website.

He cited the recent example of Qantas, which grounded its six Airbus A380s for intensive safety checks after a mid-air engine blast over Indonesia on November 4.

Ervan said no Merpati planes would be grounded but a “special safety audit” would be carried out in the near future.

Merpati does not fly outside Indonesia and serves mainly short-haul flights between the massive archipelago’s main islands, including Bali.

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