Officials in Indonesia have told state-run Merpati Nusantara Airlines to stop buying the Chinese-made Xian MA-60 aircraft involved in a Saturday’s fatal crash. The airline last year announced an order for 15 new Chinese-made turboprop planes, 13 of which have been delivered. In the wake of the crash of a Merpati MA-60 in West Papua last weekend however, Members of Indonesia’s House of Representatives have urged an immediate investigation into the planes.
“If the aircraft are not proper to fly, we have to return the 13 planes and cancel the purchasing order of two more planes,” the Jakarta Post quoted house member Ahmad Muzani as saying.
The West Papua crash was the third safety incident affecting a Merpati MA-60 since their delivery. Local news portal, tempointeraktif.com reported that an electrical problem affected one of Merpati’s MA-60s in West Nusa Tenggara province in July 2010, while in February this year another MA-60 skidded off the runway at Kupang airport in East Nusa Tenggara. Philippine-based low-cost carrier, Zest Air has also experienced two incidents with its MA-60s, including one occasion in 2009 when a plane veered sharply on landing, before colliding with a concrete barrier. Other safety incidents involving the aircraft have been reported in Africa and South America, involving Air Zimbabwe and TAM Bolivia.
Merpati’s safety record is also questionable however; in 2009 one of its Twin Otter planes crashed in West Papua province, killing all 16 people on board, and in April last year a Boeing 737 operated by the airline overshot the runway at Manokwari in West Papua, injuring 44 people. Merpati is one of the Indonesian airlines still on the EU aviation blacklist.
Meanwhile it has been reported that the flight data recorder from Saturday’s crash has been discovered. The cause of the incident is still unclear, but bad weather has been cited as a possible factor. All 27 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the sea 500 metres short of the runway at Utarung Kaimana airport in West Papua province.