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April 9, 2009

Indonesian court jails Garuda pilot over air disaster

Indonesian court jails Garuda pilot over air disaster

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

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Captain Muhammad Marwoto Komar, the pilot who was controlling Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 when it crashed two years ago, has been jailed for two years. 21 people were killed when the Boeing 737 crashed at Adi Sucipto Airport in Yogyakarta.

The court ruled that Article 479G(b) of the Criminal Code had been breached by Komar — negligence resulting in death. The aircraft had crashed due to the excessive speed that it landed at, with prosecutors originally claiming the crash was deliberate while Komar blamed an issue with the flaps. The charge of intentionally crashing was later dropped.

The court found that as Komar had not notified co-pilot Gagam Salman R. or air traffic control of any issue with the aircraft despite having two minutes to do so he was negligent. Had the airport been aware of the problems on board, they could have readied Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting crews to prevent or contain the fire when the plane departed the runway. As the plane approached the runway the Ground Proximity Warning System sounded fifteen times to inform the flight crew the jet was going too fast for a safe landing.

He was sentenced to two years in prison, half the term prosecutors were seeking. Lead prosecutor Mudin Aristo said that “we’re considering [appealing] the verdict.” M. Assegaf, Komar’s lawyer, has already said that he will appeal. “The case should not have been tried under that article [479G(b)], which is used to regulate terrorists. Captain Marwoto is not a terrorist”, said Assegaf.

Garuda Pilots’ Association president Stephanus Gerardus and Napitupulu of the Federation of Indonesian Pilots both commented that the case should not have been in a criminal court at all but in an aviation court. Garardus commented that “Pilots will be afraid to land their planes because of the threat of imprisonment.”

The judges, who were split in their verdict as one felt that all charges should be dismissed, ruled that the position of such a court was unclear and that it had no jurisdiction to hand down jail sentences. They also said that Law No. 1/2009 on profession courts, which applies to such a court, was not in place at the time of the accident.

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Others felt that the sentence was too light. Then-Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer commented that “it seems a very light sentence frankly. I understand from the evidence that was presented that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the aircraft and that the pilot just landed the plane at far too high a speed, way over the limit of the landing of an aircraft.” Five Australian diplomats and journalists travelling on flight 200 to attend a counter-terrorism conference that Downer appeared at in Indonesia were amongst the dead.

Caroline Mellish, sister of Australian journalist Morgan Mellish who died on the flight, also said the sentence was light. “I don’t feel like justice has been served… And hearing he only got two years made it even harder,” she said. Kevin Keevil, father of AusAID’s Allison Sudradjat, who also died, had a similar opinion.

“It does not give me any peace of mind,” said Keevil. “I have a personal belief that the sentence is inadequate given what transpired on the day, especially in view of the pilot’s behaviour.”

The verdict, which was attended by Komar’s wife and teenage sons, garnered widespread public interest. For the four hours that proceedings lasted the courtroom was at capacity and many people were listening from outside.



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July 22, 2008

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200\’s pilot\’s trial to begin this week

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200’s pilot’s trial to begin this week

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The trial of Captain Marwoto Komar is set to begin this week. The first pilot to be prosecuted over an aircraft accident in Indonesia, he is being charged over the March 7, 2007 crash of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 at Yogyakarta International Airport, a disaster which killed 21 people.

The final report by the National Transport Safety Commission found that Komar had attempted to land the aircraft, a Boeing 737, at an unsafely high speed and steep angle, resulting in the plane overshooting the runway and bursting into flames. It further said that he ignored fifteen activations of the Ground Proximity Warning System telling him he was approaching too fast, as well as a request by the co-pilot to abort the landing.

According to Muhammad Assegaf, a member of Captain Komar’s defense team, the trial begins on Thursday in Yogyakarta’s Slemen District Court. When asked about the nature of the charges, deputy attorney general for general offenses Abdul Hakim Ritonga told reporters “It is complicated…but both aviation and criminal codes can be used,” and that the charges would be of fatal negligence.

Most of those killed in the disaster were Indonesians, but five Australians were also killed. They were part of a group sent ahead of Australia’s then foreign minister Alexander Downer to accompany him on a visit.

There is much controversy surrounding the prosecution. A group of pilots protested his initial arrest, saying he should appear before an aviation tribunal. Instead, he is set to be tried before five judges.



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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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February 28, 2008

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot forced to resign

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot forced to resign

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The pilot of the Boeing 737 which crashed on March 7 upon landing at Yogyakarta Airport after a domestic Indonesian flight, has been forced by his airline to resign. The crash of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 killed twenty-one people, most being Indonesian nationals and five being Australians, following a visit by then Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Garuda sent the pilot, Marwoto Komar, an ultimatum requesting his resignation with which he complied. Had he failed to do so, his employment would have been terminated. The news coincides with police officials forwarding to prosecutors some documents recommending that Komar be charged with negligent manslaughter over the crash, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

The final report into the disaster found that Mr Komar ignored fifteen activations of the Ground Proximity Warning System informing him he was attempting to land too fast. After touching down at double the maximum safe speed, the aircraft overshot the runway and caught fire.

Kamal Firdaus, legal representative of Mr Komar, said “We regret Garuda so soon giving Marwoto the option of being fired or resigning.”

Mr Komar was arrested early this month, but was subsequently released on bail on February 15. He is thought to be the first pilot to face prosecution for an aviation accident or incident in Indonesia.



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February 15, 2008

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot released on bail

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot released on bail

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Indonesian national Marwoto Komar has been released on bail having earlier been arrested over the March 7 crash of a Boeing 737 he was piloting. Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 overshot the runway at Yogyakarta Airport whilst landing after a scheduled domestic passenger flight, leaving 21 Indonesian and Australian passengers dead, out of 140 on board.

The subsequent investigation by the National Transport Safety Committee concluded with report released in November that found the aircraft had approached at far in excess of safe landing speeds, with Komar ignoring 15 activations of the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) as well as his co-pilot requesting an emergency go-around as the plane touched down.

Muchtar Yudhi, legal representative of Mr Komar, told El Shinta radio today that authorities had accepted a request to release Komar on bail, he having been arrested nearly two weeks ago in Yogyakarta. He said Komar remains a suspect of manslaugher, but that he will continue to co-operate with police.

He also said that under global aviation law “if a plane crash occurred, the pilot cannot face criminal investigation”.

The police say they intend to prosecute him for negligence and will now charge him when he returns to court. He is thought to be the first pilot to be prosecuted over a crash in Indonesian history, which also contains a poor aviation safety record.

The Indonesian Pilot’s Association has also said that the criminal prosecution should be avoided, arguing that the only people who can judge whether mistakes were made in aviation are those professionally involved and not the police. There were protests in Jakarta demanding his release and dozens of pilots across the nation also campaigned. Two survivors, Adrianus Meliala and Retno Gunowati, went to the House of Representatives (DPR) on Wednesday to challenge those opposed to legal processes against the pilot.

The London-based International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) commented that they were “saddened” to hear the news. IFALPA contends that further investigations are needed into the crash, and that criminal proceedings could prevent an accurate version of events from ever being known. A statement was released that read as follows: “The Federation expects that Capt. Komar will be released … as he has agreed to fully cooperate with the police investigation and clearly poses no danger to society. He remains a professional who was involved in an unfortunate tragedy.”

Alexander Downer, Australian foreign minister at the time of the crash, earlier said “…I am very glad that they have reached a point now where they have charged the captain of the aircraft.” Several people involved were Australian journalists following Downer on a visit to Indonesia.

“Thanks to the chief of the Indonesian Police and the chief of Yogyakarta Police… I’m glad now that I can meet my family again.” Komar said upon his release.

Komar has earlier been under police surveillance, during which time he was receiving psychological treatment. He has had his pilot’s license suspended.



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February 7, 2008

Concern as Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot arrested and charged

Concern as Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 pilot arrested and charged

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Indonesian pilot Marwoto Komar has been arrested over a crash he was involved in. Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 was a Boeing 737 that shot off the runway at Yogyakarta International Airport on March 7 last year, killing 21.

The final report into the disaster blamed pilot error for the crash, which killed several Australian journalists following a visit by their foreign minister as well as Indonesian nationals. The investigation determined that Komar was responsible, having brought the plane in at almost double the safe landing speed. He attempted a landing at 408 kph (254 mph), which is 160 kph (100 mph) above the safe speed. The plane overshot the runway, coming to rest in a rice field where it caught fire.

On Monday, Komar was arrested. He has been charged with manslaughter over the crash, and if convicted could face five years imprisonment. However, the London-based International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA) commented that they were “saddened” to hear the news.

IFALPA contends that further investigations are needed into the crash, and that criminal proceedings could prevent an accurate version of events from ever being known.

A statement was released that read as follows: “The Federation expects that Capt. Komar will be released … as he has agreed to fully cooperate with the police investigation and clearly poses no danger to society. He remains a professional who was involved in an unfortunate tragedy.”



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November 11, 2007

Pilot of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 speaks out for first time

Pilot of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 speaks out for first time

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-400 at Singapore Changi Airport on February 4, 2007. It is nearly identical to the one that crashed.
Image: Terence Ong.

Marwoto Komar, pilot of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, a Boeing 737-400 which overshot the runway in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on March 7, killing 21, has spoken to the media for the first time about the accident. Five of the deceased were Australian.

“I am deeply, deeply mourning for the victims and for the Australians,” Mr Komar told News Limited . A recent report found his actions to be chiefly responsible for the disaster, finding that he had ignored fifteen automated warnings that he was going too fast, and describing him as fixated with landing. As a result, he is likely to face criminal charges.

Mr Komar broke down outside his Jakarta residence as he told reporters “I didn’t plan for this to happen. The point is that I want people to know I am deeply in mourning and also that I understand what the families feel. I just did my job as normal, as usual, flying as a pilot.”

Mr Komar is currently undergoing psychological treatment for mental problems caused by the crash. His flying license has been suspended. “Every day I am here at home, I have never run away. I have explained everything to the KNKT (Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee) and to the police,” he said.

Mr Komar said he couldn’t comment on technical aspects of the crash, or of the criticisms of his conduct, as the matter is still under police investigation. He is likely to face negligence charges which carry a prison sentence if convicted.

Three other Garuda employees are currently being questioned in Jakarta by police as part of the investigation. They’ve been told that they are being interrogated as “witnesses”.

Meanwhile, Emirsyah Satar, managing director of the airline, has announced an intention to resume flights to Europe next year, assuming success in a current bid to get the airline off the list of air carriers banned in the EU, where all Indonesian airlines were placed earlier this year. He suggested Amsterdam as the most likely destination.



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November 9, 2007

Australia completes inquest for victims of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200

Australia completes inquest for victims of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200

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Friday, November 9, 2007

A Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-400 at Singapore Changi Airport on February 4, 2007. It is nearly identical to the one that crashed.
Image: Terence Ong.

Ron Cahill, a Canberra resident and chief coroner of the Australian Capital Territory, has concluded the inquest into the deaths of three Australian nationals who were amongst the 21 people killed in the crash of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200. The Boeing 737-400 aircraft overshot a runway at Yogyakarta, Indonesia on March 7.

The inquest indicated that Alison Sudradjat, Brice Steele and Mark Scott died from injuries sustained in the crash. Cahill commented that this finding would also apply to the deaths of two other Australians on the flight; the remaining fatal injuries were sustained by Indonesians. The inquest was opened at the request of families of the three victims involved in this inquest after the repatriation of their bodies.

Cahill agreed fully with a recent report issued by the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee, which indicated that the pilot-in-command attempted to land the aircraft at extreme speed despite 15 automated cockpit warnings and a request from the co-pilot to perform a go-around. He went on to suggest that the pilot should be prosecuted over his mistakes.

“I recommend that CASA and Air Services Australia and all Australian airlines review the report to consider whether any of the safety deficiencies identified have relevance to Australian aviation operations and therefore need to be addressed,” he said.

He went on to describe concerns with how these deficiencies are being addressed in Indonesia: “It is of some concern that the Indonesian regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, did not provide the National Transportation Safety Committee with details of safety action to address the recommendations which were in the draft report.”

Alison Sudrajat’s daughter had this to say in light of the findings: “It was very informative and it was nice to know what exactly happened, because he went into quite some detail about everything.”

“It was quite comforting, but it’s not going to bring anyone back.”



Related news

  • “Calls made for prosecution in light of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 report” — Wikinews, October 25, 2007
  • “Garuda Indonesia Flight 200’s pilot’s marital problems may have affected judgement” — Wikinews, October 25, 2007
  • “Report blames pilot error for Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 disaster” — Wikinews, October 22, 2007
  • “Dozens dead in Indonesian plane crash” — Wikinews, March 7, 2007

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October 25, 2007

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200\’s pilot\’s marital problems may have affected judgement

Garuda Indonesia Flight 200’s pilot’s marital problems may have affected judgement

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

A new theory has emerged as in to why the pilot of Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 attempted to land at a hugely excessive speed, despite 15 automated warnings he was flying too quickly and the co-pilot’s call for a ‘go-around’ procedure to be performed. 21 people were killed in the March 7 crash of the Boeing 737-400 passenger jetliner.

Stephanus Geraldus, head of the Garuda pilots association, said that problems at home and a lack of sleep may have affected Marwoto Komar’s judgement. The news comes as Indonesian authorities announce they are pressing ahead with a possible prosecution.

The final report into the disaster, released on Monday, found that Komar, 45, had exhibited what was described as a “fixation” to land the plane, resulting in the excessively fast approach.

“If you look at his long flying experience, it’s impossible that he would try to land at that speed,” Captain Geraldus said, adding that marrital problems with wife Norma Andriani, a former air hostess, were “common knowledge”. This was backed up by Dudi Sudibyo, an analyst at Angkasa magazine (translated: ‘Airspace’).

“I understand he was arguing with his wife until late that night,” said Sudibyo, who went on to express concern at the lack of addressal of potential mental problems on the part of the pilot in the report. Sudibyo is himself a licensed pilot.

Lack of sleep may also have contributed. Both Komar and Gagam Rochmana, the flight’s co-pilot, reported for duty at 4:30 a.m., with the flight departing Jakarta for Yogyakarta as scheduled at 6 a.m. “What I want to know now is: why he didn’t report that lack of sleep and ask to be shifted to the next flight, or maybe he felt extremely confident he could fly – overconfident,” Sudibyo specualted. The report did not find any explicit evidence that they were unfit to fly, but did comment that “they did not provide the investigation with information about (their) activities during the 72 hours prior to commencing duty”.

Police officials have commented that a prosecution is likely with the only personnel required to complete the case against the pilot and co-pilot being expert witnesses, and that the pilots had been grounded since the accident. “We’re looking to prosecute under criminal negligence causing death and serious injury,” Inspector-General Adiwinoto said.

“We need witnesses who can prove there was negligence, and since this was an aviation matter, that could be someone from the National Safety Transportation Committee, or it could also be a medical doctor because of the deaths and injuries.

“We have been proceeding with this investigation all along, but we needed enough preliminary evidence, which we now do have, with the report that says, yes, there was human negligence.” He also said that the airline may itself be prosecuted for failing to provide necessary training to the flight crew. This new development comes at the same time as six Garuda Boeing 737-400s are grounded for failure to comply with import regulations.



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