Crew Blamed for Russian Jet Crash in Indonesia

December 20, 2012

Human error caused a Russian-made passenger jetliner to crash into an Indonesia volcano seven months ago during a demonstration flight, killing all 45 people aboard, the National Commission on Safety Transportation announced Tuesday.

Information recovered from the Sukhoi Superjet-100’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder indicated the pilot in command was chatting with a potential buyer in the cockpit just before the plane slammed into dormant Mount Salak on May 9, Commission Chairman Tatang Kurniadi told reporters.

He said that 38 seconds before the crash, instruments inside the cockpit issued a warning saying “pull up, terrain ahead.” Later the warning “avoid terrain” was issued six times, but the instruments were turned off because the crew assumed there was a problem with the database, Kurniadi said. He added that a simulation showed that the crash could have been avoided if the crew had responded within 24 seconds of the first warning.

“The crew was not aware of the mountainous area surrounding the flight path,” Kurniadi said.

The Jakarta radar service was also not equipped with a system in the area where the crash occurred that was capable of informing flight crews of minimum safe altitudes, he added.

Russian pilot Alexander Yablontsev was in charge of the flight and was an experienced test pilot, logging 10,000 hours in the Sukhoi Superjet and its prototypes.

Soon after takeoff from a Jakarta airfield, the pilot and co-pilot asked air traffic control for permission to drop from 3,000 meters to 1,800 meters (10,000 feet to 6,000 feet). The plane disappeared from the radar immediately after in West Java.

Last month, Indonesia certified the Russian-made passenger jetliner as safe to fly in the country after a thorough validation process unrelated to the crash investigation. This opened the lines for delivery of the aircraft to its first customer in Southeast Asia, the Indonesian airline Sky Aviation, which signed a deal for 12 planes.

The Superjet is Russia’s first new model of passenger jet since the fall of the Soviet Union two decades ago and is intended to help resurrect its aerospace industry.

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