Aviation News

May 12, 2011

Indonesian President Demands Answers for Merpati Plane Crash

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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday demanded answers from his cabinet regarding the Merpati Nusantara Airlines planes crash that killed 27 people.

Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono is greeted by U.S. President George W. Bush while attending an APEC summit in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 20, 2004.

Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono is greeted by U.S. President George W. Bush while attending an APEC summit in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 20, 2004. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

According the Antara news agency, Yudhoyono discussed the case with cabinet members in a meeting in Jakarta. The president called on all ministers concerned to explain to the civilian population the progress of the probe on the accident.

On May 7, a Chinese made Xian MA-60 plane crashed in Kaimana, West Papua, killing all 27 people on board. The accident took place at around 2.05 p.m. local time as the aircraft was preparing to land at the local airport.

“What is important is clear explanation. Certainly the best parties to give the explanation are the Merpati airlines leadership and the state ministers,” said Yudhoyono. “Everything could be explained in a right and correctly way.”

The president also demanded the transportation minister to give an explanation of the regulation and licensing for 60 planes owned by Merpati Nusantara Airlines which have no Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) license.

Furthermore, Yudhoyono called for a review for the purchase of 15 MA-60 turbo-prop planes manufactured by China’s Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation for $220 million initiated in 2006.

The procurement of the aircraft for the state-owned Merpati Airlines has been surrounded by controversy. An investigation was opened to determine if there was foul play in the purchase as it is being questioned the planes’ air-worthiness.

Former vice president Jusuf Kalla joined the calls for a through probe on the issue as he said that the previous government had already cancelled the deal and the current ruling coalition resurrected it at a much higher price.

“When I was vice president, the 15 planes should have cost only about $165 million. Why did it become so expensive? I think the Finance Ministry, should openly publish details of the purchase,” Kalla said.

Also on Thursday, Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi announced that the black box data log of the Chinese-made MA-60 aircraft will be sent to China for deciphering. A team from the National Committee on Transportation Safety will travel to China to open the data recorder.