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Tue, Apr 07, 2009

Garuda Pilot Jailed In 2007 Accident

Komar Says He Will Appeal Verdict

Former Garuda Indonesia pilot Marwoto Komar says he will appeal a guilty verdict handed down by an Indonesian court Monday, on charges of criminal negligence in the case of a notorious crash landing at Yogyakarta in March 2007.

Agence-France Presse reports Komar received a two-year sentence, far more lenient than the life sentence prosecutors had wanted.

Komar was the captain of a Boeing 737-400 that overshot the runway on landing at Yogyakarta airport in central Java, and slid into a rice field. The aircraft burst into flames, killing 21 people, while 119 others were able to escape through the exits of the burning jet in the March 7, 2007 accident.

Investigators later disclosed Komar ignored repeated warnings -- both from cockpit alarms, and the flight's co-pilot -- that the jet was coming in for landing much too fast. Cockpit recordings indicated the co-pilot had repeatedly called for the captain to abort the landing, and go-around. Police arrested Komar in February 2008... but he was later released, pending formal charges.

In its final report on the crash, released in October 2007, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) found the pilot was "singing" during the approach, below 10,000 feet and prior to reaching 4,000 feet, which was "not in accordance with the Garuda Basic Operations Manual policy for a sterile cockpit below 10,000 feet

While it's easy to scapegoat Komar in this matter, there appear to be lots of potential targets for outrage. It came to light during the investigation that Garuda pilots were paid bonuses for saving fuel, a possible factor in the decision by Komar not to go around. The airport also came under heavy criticism for taking an hour to reach the burning plane with firefighting equipment.

AFP reports Komar wore his uniform to court to hear his two-year prison sentence announced Monday, despite being forced from his job about a year ago. He still blames defective flaps for the crash. Investigators say they were working fine.

The ugly safety record of Indonesian carriers prompted the US Embassy in Jakarta to warn US citizens to avoid flying the nations airlines during stays in the country. In June 2007, flights by Indonesian carriers were banned from airspace controlled by the European Union.

FMI: www.garuda-indonesia.com/, www.dephub.go.id/knkt/ntsc_home/ntsc.htm

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