Tuesday, 19 June, 2012 | 18:24 WIB
Understaffed Airport Tower Center Allegedly Played Role in Sukhoi Crash
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:The cause of the Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash at Mount Salak has finally begun to unravel. It is suspected that the air traffic controller, who had been working alone to man and guide pilots of a number of planes at one time – did not pay sufficient attention to guide the doomed Sukhoi’s Russian pilot after the latter made a request to descend, in order to fly between the hazardous peaks of Mount Salak.
The cover story of Tempo's June 18, 2012, contains the essence of a transcript recording the last conversation between Sukhoi pilot Aleksander and a man identified only as N, the air traffic controller at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Cengkareng, Banten. The Sukhoi pilot had screamed out, ‘Oh my God, what's this’, moments before the crash that killed all on board.
“Tower 36801 good afternoon, establish Radial 200 degrees VOR ten thousand feet…said the pilot at 14:24 hrs The Air Traffic Controller, identified only as N, replied, “RA36801 radar contact, maintain ten thousand proceed area. Complying with the procedure, pilot Aleksander repeats the Controller's instruction: “Maintain level 10.000 feet 36801.”
Th new jet was cruising toward Pelabuhan Ratu in accordance with the flight destination. The pilot was flying the aircraft in line with the instrument flight rules status, meaning that the pilot followed the navigation instruments guide in the cockpit and the guide by the air traffic controller.
Two minutes at 10,000 feet, the pilot contacted the controller, “Tower, 36801 request descend 6,000 feet." N replied, “36801 say again request." Pilot Aleksandr repeated request to lower the aircraft at 1,828 meters above the sea level. N immediately replied, “Ok, 6.000 copied.” The pilot repeats: “Descend to 6.000 feet 36801.”
On the radio, at 14:28 hrs, pilot Aleksander is again heard requesting information. “Tower, 36801 request turn right orbit present position.”
Without asking the reasons why the pilot wanted to turn right, N agreed right away: “RA 36801 approve orbit to the right - six thousand.” The request to turn right is the last communication from the pilot. Almost five minutes thereafter, the plane hits Mt. Salak, crashes and burns. From the flight recorder (black box) conversation, a Russian investigator said, a few moments after the request for turning was approved, the pilot screamed: ‘Oh my God, what's this?’
Chairman of National Transportation Safety Committee Tatang Kurniadi did not deny when confirmed about the communication between the pilot and his guide. "The conversation is normative, no clues whatsoever. Ours is more complete," he said last Tuesday.
A Russian investigator who knew about the preliminary analysis of the black box said Yablontsev intended to do a maneuver after his request for going lower was approved by the Cengkareng tower. "He wanted to fly through the opening between the two mountain tops," he said. Mount Salak has three peaks with steep valleys. An official at Cengkareng concluded the guide [air traffic controller] allegedly had a hand in the accident. "The guide should not have approved the pilot's request to turn right because on the radar monitor, the figure of a mountain was clearly displayed."
BAGJA HIDAYAT | WAHYU MURYADI | PRAMONO