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January 27, 2009

Search and rescue beacons soon to make the digital jump

Search and rescue beacons soon to make the digital jump

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

1st generation EPIRBs

Starting February 1, Cospas-Sarsat will discontinue monitoring the frequencies that are used for analog-based emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRB), the 121.5 and 243 MHz frequencies. Search and rescue (SAR) groups worldwide will only monitor the 406 MHz frequency, which is dedicated to digital locators.

The 406 MHz digital band has many advantages over the older analog systems. Since the locators send data to satellites, rather than just provide a continuous signal, much more will be known about the emergency before a SAR group arrives, such as the type of vehicle and owner. In addition, the accuracy will be greatly enhanced from a 1400 square kilometre (500 square mile) search zone down to just 90m (100 yards) if the locator has a GPS fix. The most important reason for the switch is the reduction of false positives. With the older analog bands, only about one in every 50 alerts was real, whereas with the digital system that is reduced to about one in every 17 alerts being real.

With fewer false positives and greatly increased accuracy, SAR groups around the world will be better able and faster to respond to life-threatening emergencies within the critical “golden day”. They will also be able to do this with fewer wasted resources.

The phase-out of analog transponders has been a long time coming. The first warnings were sent by the US Coast Guard in 2000, and analog devices have not been manufactured in the last several years. For most large boats the cost of upgrading to the new system was negligible. The change February 1 is worldwide, with both the International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Maritime Organization recommending the switch.



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June 23, 2008

Air safety group says airport was operating illegally without license when Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 crashed

Air safety group says airport was operating illegally without license when Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 crashed

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Monday, June 23, 2008

An Australian air safety group claims that Yogyakarta International Airport was opearating illegally with no license when Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, a Boeing 737, crashed at the airport, killing 16 Indonesians and five Australians.

Flight Safety Pty Ltd had been asked to carry out an independent investigation by an anonymous client after the March 2007 disaster, which occurred when the aircraft landed at excessive speed and shot off the end of the runway. Flight Safety has now announced that they have found Yogyakarta International had been granted a five year license but this would be withdrawn after twelve months if several conditions were not met. Since these conditions remained unchanged, the license effectively voided six months before the disaster, claim Flight Safety. One of the conditions was extension of the runway and provision of an adequate Runway End Safety Area (RESA).

The group adds that it also conducted checks on Solo International Airport and Semarang International Airport, and that these airports also had invalid Airport Operating Certificates. The final report was not released at the time as the client in question felt it ‘too sensitive’, and Flight Safety says that it was rapidly covered up three months later when it leaked in Indonesia.

The group says it notified the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and that they in turn said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) – who assisted in the crash investigation – was in control of the situation. However, Flight Safety claim that when approached, the ATSB denied knowing about it. Allegedly, the ATSB had missed the licensing discrepancy because they only checked the front page of the airport’s license and did not conduct a detailed analysis of the small print.

Flight Safety claim that the Indonesian Director of Aviation Safety told them that the situation had been rectified. However, the group have now conducted a re-audit and say Solo and Yogyakarta airports both remain illegal. They go on to accuse the ICAO, ATSB and Indonesian Director of Aviation Safety of “keeping quiet” and described them as ‘compromised’.

Flight Safety go on to claim that the survivors of the crash and relatives of the deceased have not been informed either, and say that this will have a serious effect on the compensation process and on any insurance claims. Crikey, an Australian news service, also suggested that AU$12 million of aid promised by Australia to help Indonesia improve air safety is also being misused. All Indonesia’s air carriers are currently on the list of air carriers banned in the EU.

An official statement by Flight Safety head Chris Weir concluded “It [the group’s findings] should now be exposed as the safety issues remain unresolved.”

Mardjono Siswo Suwarno of the National Transport Safety Committee, the body responsible for investigating the disaster, denied that Yogyakarta Airport was illegal, saying “At that time [the license] was still valid, but the RESA was not long enough… But still in the [Garuda] case, even if the RESA length was adequate, the plane would have still overrun because the speed was 1.8 times normal speed.”

The final report found that the pilot-in-command, who has been arrested and charged over the crash, attempted to land after fifteen Ground Proximity Warning System activations to tell him he was landing too fast, and says that although a longer runway and full-sized RESA wouldn’t have stopped an airliner traveling at such excessive speed it could have reduced the toll of deaths and injuries.

The directors of Yogyakarta and Solo airports claim that since the re-audit they have taken steps to improve safety and rectify any problems, but have not actually admitted their airports were illegal. Indonesian director general of air transportation Budi Mulyawan Suyitno said that although local budget limitations have prevented some airports from being improved there are no problems currently at Yogyakarta, with improvements including declaration of a RESA for 140 metres of the 2,250 metre runway and stationing Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting trucks at the airport.



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April 17, 2008

Indonesia angered as nation\’s airlines all remain banned in EU airspace

Indonesia angered as nation’s airlines all remain banned in EU airspace

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

This B737-400 is comparable to the aircraft involved in all the accidents and incidents mentioned in this story. Adam Air is currently grounded and may have its license permanently revoked.
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

Indonesia has been angered by a decision of the European Union to leave all 51 of the nation’s air carriers on the list of air carriers banned in the EU. State-owned flag carrier Garuda Indonesia had hoped to begin flights to Europe imminently and has ordered ten new jetliners to serve routes there and to the United States.

Transport ministry spokesperson Bambang Ervan said “This seems like an unfair punishment for Indonesia. The EU is not a sovereign country and is not a member of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation). But we do respect the EU and its decision, and demand the same from the EU.”

The ban was imposed after a string of accidents, of which the three most important were Adam Air Flight 574, a 102-fatality accident in which a Boeing 737-43Q plunged into the ocean after pilots distracted by instrument failure failed to maintain control, Adam Air Flight 172, in which another B737 snapped in half after a hard landing and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, in which a third B737 attempted landing at extreme speed and overshot the runway, killing 21.

Adam Air had also almost suffered a B737 crash the previous year, 2006, after a similar navigational instrument failure to that on Flight 574 caused the airliner to become lost for several hours, eventually performing an emergency landing hundreds of kilometres from its intended destination. Indonesia grounded the carrier in March after another accident in which a B737 overshot a runway. The carrier is also in severe financial difficulties and may soon be permanently shut down.

Meanwhile, the pilot of Garuda 200 has been charged over the accident, sparking intense controversy.

The EU reviewed the ban this week, but ruled that those responsible “have still to demonstrate that they have completed the corrective actions” needed to lift the ban. It is a blow to Indonesia, who had promised “fast-track” help to Garuda, Mandala Airlines, Premiair and Airfast to raise their safety to levels acceptable to the EU.



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