Source AP ©

Indonesian authorities impelled to cease investigation into plane crash

An international pilots' group impelled Indonesian officials to suspend an investigation into a plane crash that killed 21 people, and concentrate on finding the reasons for fatal accidents in the nation's civil aviation.

"The International Civil Aviation Organization has long determined that inappropriate prosecution can often be an impediment to identifying system failures," said a statement issued by the London-based International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations.

Indonesian investigators have said the captain of a Garuda Boeing 737-400 that crashed in March on landing at Yogyakarta airport, about 400 kilometers (240 miles) east of Jakarta, had ignored repeated warnings that he was approaching the runway at almost double the normal landing speed.

Investigators say the pilot, Marwoto Komar, had made a steep approach and then hit the runway at 408 kph (254 mph) 160 kph (100 mph) faster than the safe touchdown speed.

The Boeing skidded off the runway and plowed into a rice paddy before bursting into flames.

The pilot, co-pilot and 117 others survived the March 7 crash, many with severe burns. Among the dead and injured were Australian diplomats, police, military personnel and journalists who were following a visit by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to the city in central Java.

It was the third accident this year involving a commercial jetliner in Indonesia, prompting foreign governments to issue warnings about the country's air safety standards.

Indonesian police have said Capt. Komar is now a suspect and may face manslaughter charges. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in jail.

But the international pilots union said that risks obscuring the benefits of a proper investigation.

"A full and complete technical investigation is the only accepted means of isolating and preventing systemic failures, failures which can lead to accidents," said association spokesman Gideon Ewers.

"Therefore, any prosecution should be suspended until the a full report is published and even then should only proceed in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines," Ewers said.

Earlier this year, the European Union banned all 51 airlines certified in Indonesia from flying to the EU due to safety concerns. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority also downgraded the country's rating to its lowest category.

But Garuda, the national flag-carrier, says it intends to resume services to Amsterdam in 2008 if its current bid to be struck from the EU's blacklist succeeds.

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