The Chinese-made Xian MA-60 aircraft belonging to Merpati Airlines have been banned from operating at three airports in Indonesia. Local news portal, tempointeraktif.com reported that country’s Transportation Ministry issued the directive this week, concerning the domestic airports in Ruteng, Ende and Waingapu, all in East Nusa Tenggara province. The move follows the fatal crash of a Merpati MA-60 in West Papua province earlier this month. The three hubs were cited as being more difficult to land at, and thus more dangerous for the MA-60s.
“The three airports have high obstacle rates, and a lot of maneuvering is required to get there,” Indonesia’s Air Transport Director, Herry Bhakti Singoyuda was quoted saying on Monday.
The directive also called for Merpati to “enforce strict discipline” when flying its MA-60s on routes to West Papua. All 25 people aboard the Chinese-made twin-prop aircraft died when it crashed into the sea while coming into land at Utarung Kaimana Airport on 7 May.
The MA-60s have come under increased scrutiny after it was revealed that they had been involved in numerous safety incidents prior to the West Papua crash. In one incident involving Philippines-based carrier Zest Air, the MA-60 is reported to have veered sharply to the right upon landing, before crashing into a concrete barrier. Merpati’s MA-60 fleet meanwhile, have been involved in three incidents since being introduced into the airline’s fleet just later year.
According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s aviation authorities conducted an inspection of Merpati’s MA-60 fleet from 13-15 May. Of the 12 aircraft operated by Merpati, 10 were passed for an immediate return to service, while two were required to undergo maintenance in Surabaya. It is unclear what faults were detected in the two grounded planes.