Indonesian Investigation Shows Human Error Contributed to Russian Jet Crash

Jakarta — Indonesia’s preliminary report on the Russian jet crash that killed 45 people in May suggests human error caused the accident, which killed everyone on board the demonstration flight.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Committee said the Sukhoi Superjet 100 slammed into the side of a dormant volcano after its Russian pilot requested permission to descend to 6,000 feet and was given approval by air traffic control, even though the minimum safe altitude for the airspace the Superjet was flying through was 6,900 feet.

While the report that was released earlier this month is just a quick outline of what the committee has figured out so far and a final report isn’t due out for months, it has no indications of mechanical problems with the new Sukhoi passenger plane, which Russia had hoped would restart the country’s civilian aerospace industry.

The report recommended that the Indonesian directorate general of civil aviation ensure that even demonstration flights respect published minimum safe flight altitudes. It also recommended Sukhoi “arrange additional training for flight crews who will conduct demonstration flights, especially in mountainous regions.”
The initial findings are relatively good news for Sukhoi, as there are no indications so far that there was a problem with its jet, analysts said.

“They (Sukhoi) would be quite happy if (the final report) shows there is not a mechanical issue with the aircraft, but we don’t know for sure yet,” said Siva Govindasamy, Asia managing editor for Flight Global, an aviation industry publication. “They have not specifically ruled it out yet so we won’t be sure until the final report comes out.”

Some of Sukhoi’s customers are already convinced that the company’s aircraft are safe. Indonesian airline Sky Aviation says it will take delivery of and start using Russian Sukhoi Superjets this year, even though investigations have yet to be completed.

Many companies within Indonesia’s low-cost airline industry were interested in the Sukhoi passenger planes, which can carry around 100 people and are inexpensive to run and maintain, analysts say. Most of those killed in the flight were representatives of Indonesian airlines.

Still, the reports leaves some important questions unanswered, analysts said, including why did the pilot request to descend, why he was given approval and why didn’t on-board warning systems let him know they were headed into a mountain.

The National Transportation Safety Committee said it is still investigating and needs to coordinate with Russian investigators before it will have all the answers.

“It’s still a preliminary report and too early to draw a conclusion from the investigations,” said Tatang Kurniadi, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Committee. “We may still need two to three months before we can issue a final report.”[]

The Wall Street Journal

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