Friday, February 08, 2008

Garuda captain arrested, charged with manslaughter

Garuda Indonesia logoCaptain Marwoto Komar, the pilot in command (PIC) of a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-400 that crashed at Yogyakarta in March of 2007 has been arrested and charged with manslaughter. The accident occurred as Garuda Flight GA 200, with seven crew members and 133 passengers on board, arrived at Yogyakarta on a scheduled flight from Jakarta. Twenty-one people lost their lives after the aircraft overran the runway at Yogyakarta, broke through a fence, crossed a road, and came to rest in a rice paddy where it caught fire.

In October of 2007, Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) issued a report on the accident, as well as an English-language media release about their findings. The media release stated that the NTSC's main finding was that "...the flight crew’s compliance with procedures was not at a level to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft."

More specifically, the NTSC media release said this of Capt. Marwoto Komar:
The aircraft was flown at an excessive airspeed and steep flight path angle during the approach and landing, resulting in an unstabilized approach. The PIC did not follow company procedures that required him to fly a stabilized approach, and he did not abort the landing and go around when the approach was not stabilized. His attention was fixated or channelized on landing the aircraft on the runway and he either did not hear, or disregarded the [Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS)] alerts and warnings and calls from the copilot to go around.
Many in the international aviation community have expressed concern that the NTSC investigation fell short by not investigating more fully the reasons behind the actions of the captain, as well as his co-pilot, Gagam Jahman Rochman. The latter was accused of not following company procedures to "take control of the aircraft from the PIC when he saw that the pilot in command repeatedly ignored the GPWS alerts and warnings."

Upon hearing of Marwoto Komar's arrest, the Federation of Indonesian Pilots (FPI) staged a protest rally at the House of Representatives in Jakarta. The pilots, led by FPI president Manotar Napitupulu, told members of the House Commission in charge of transportation that this "criminalization of a pilot" could eventually affect flight safety. Their view is shared by many others.

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA), an advocacy group representing more than 100,000 pilots in more than 95 countries worldwide, issued a statement expressing concern over the arrest of Marwoto Komar, citing concerns that echo those of the FPI. Here is an excerpt from the IFALPA statement:
IFALPA believes that the circumstances of the accident as set forth in the final report of the Indonesian investigation authority leaves many serious questions concerning the crew actions prior to the accident. Central to these concerns are the underlying reasons for the reported behavior of Captain Marwoto Komar. Experienced pilots have considerable difficulty in attempting to explain what is reported in the context of normal airline operations.

The Federation believes that the explanations proffered by the report do not square with the collective experience of our members. The Federation has continually maintained that the report, while final, is in fact incomplete and that additional investigation into the underlying pathology of the crew actions is required to make certain that the factors contributing to the observed actions are fully identified. Unless this is done, there is little possibility that aviation safety in the area of
crew performance can be improved by the lessons of this accident. Clearly, a criminal prosecution at this time may well foreclose further investigation for safety purposes.

IFALPA is firmly of the belief that the criminalisation of individuals involved in accidents and incidents does little to improve air safety. Furthermore, IFALPA strongly insists that the principles recommended in Attachment E of ICAO Annex 13, which hold that there should be no criminal liability without intent to do harm, be the standard to which the crew is held. The Federation demands that any Indonesian criminal proceeding respect both these principles and the concept of due process.

The Federation expects that Captain Marwoto Komar will be released without the need to post a monetary bond as he has agreed to fully cooperate with the police investigation and clearly poses no danger to society. He remains a professional
who was involved in an unfortunate tragedy.

IFALPA will continue to closely monitor the criminal proceedings with the aim of ensuring that the judicial process in Indonesia is fundamentally fair and impartial for all crewmembers.
An article on the Australian news website reports that Marwoto Komar's attorneys had requested that he be released from detention on bail, but that the request had been denied. The article quoted the Yogyakarta Police Chief, who said, "The letter from the suspect's lawyers has been accepted, but bail is not granted yet because we still need him for the investigation."

Aircrew Buzz will continue to follow this story, and details of new developments will be posted here as they become available.

Related: Click here to view all posts on Aircrew Buzz about Garuda Flt 200.