JAKARTA — Indonesia has banned Chinese-made MA-60 aircraft from using three airports for safety reasons, after one of the planes crashed and killed 25 people earlier this month, an official said Wednesday.
The turbo-prop plane operated by state-owned Merpati Nusantara airlines crashed into the sea as it approached an airport in Kaimana district of West Papua province during heavy rain on May 7.
Air transport director general Herry Bhakti said authorities decided to ban the aircraft from landing at three airports with difficult approaches.
"The airports are in Ruteng in West Nusa Tenggara province, Ende and Waingapu in East Nusa Tenggara. Those airports have high obstacle rates. They demand lot of manoeuvring to get there," he said.
The official said the cause of the crash was still being investigated but it was already clear that Merpati pilots needed supplementary training on the MA-60s.
Simulators for the aircraft -- manufactured by Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation -- are not yet available in Indonesia, he added.
Indonesia's aviation authorities have insisted the aircraft are safe and have rejected calls from lawmakers to ban them altogether.
But President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered a review of the government's decision to buy 15 MA-60s for some $220 million.
The deal has been shrouded in controversy amid allegations of kickbacks and questions about the planes' air-worthiness.
Yudhoyono said on May 12 the public needed "clear explanations" from Merpati directors, the state-owned enterprises minister and the transport minister.
The investigator of the accident said that they had yet to reach a conclusion on the cause of the accident.
"We are still trying to gather the plane's wreckage from the sea," transportation safety committee official Masruri said.
The vast Indonesian archipelago relies heavily on air transport but the country has one of Asia's worst air safety records.
The European Union banned Indonesian airlines from its airspace in June 2007 due to safety concerns, but lifted the ban for some carriers after two years. Merpati remains on the blacklist.
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