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Indonesia probe says Garuda jet descended too fast
April 11th, 2007

An Indonesian airliner that crashed at Yogyakarta airport last month killing 21 people came down too fast and at a sharp angle, preliminary results from a crash investigation showed on Wednesday. The chief of the country’s Transport Safety Commission said the Garuda Indonesia operated Boeing 737-400 plane bounced and skidded off the runway before bursting into flames. “When the plane was about to land, it looked too high over the runway coming down with a quite high speed,” Tatang Kurniadi told a news conference. “After touching the ground, the plane bounced twice and around exit delta the front wheel broke causing the plane to slide with the shock strut exposed.” Exit delta refers to a point on the runway. This caused friction between metal and the runway igniting sparks,” he said.

The commission’s statement said flight GA 200 approached the runway at a 40 degree angle. Kurniadi said the investigation had not yet reached a conclusion so could not apportion blame. The final report will take more than two months more to complete and it would only be issued publicly after parties related to the flight had received a copy, he said. Garuda’s operations director, Ari Sapari, said the pilot and co-pilot had been grounded until the final report is out. Survivors of the crash have described how the aircraft approached the runway in Yogyakarta at a “crazy” speed. It had 140 people on board when it overshot and then burst into flames. Five Australians were among the casualties. They were part of a group who had been accompanying Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who was not on board the ill-fated 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.

Indonesia has suffered a string of transport accidents in recent months, including an Adam Air aircraft that disappeared in January with 102 passengers and crew on board.

On Monday, maritime authorities heard the testimony of the captain and crewmen of a ferry that sank off Jakarta in February after being engulfed by fire.

“The passengers exceeded capacity. The manifest had 227 passengers but the truck drivers and their assistants that number around 80 were not included,” said ship captain Andi Kurniawan.

About 300 people are known to have survived the blaze and the known death toll was at least 48, but the number of missing is still unclear due to uncertainty over how many on board were unlisted. Ferries are a popular means of transport in Indonesia, but safety standards are not always strictly enforced.

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