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Indonesia's civil aviation authority has warned
local airlines that it will not hesitate to ground
their aircraft if the carriers fail a safety audit.
The warning follows the grounding in May
by the air transport division of the Ministry of
Transport (MOT) of two of Merpati Nusantara
Airlines' Chinese-made Xian Aircraft MA60
turboprop aircraft, for safety reasons. The
Ministry subsequently ordered the airline to
carry out maintenance checks on the two
aircraft according to the manufacturer's
According to the MOT's Air Transport
Director Henry Bhakti Singoyuda, an audit of
the airline was initiated after a lethal crash
involving a Merpati MA60 on a domestic
flight from Sorong City to Kaimana on 7 May.
All 27 people on board, including four crew
The Ministry has also banned Merpati
from operating the MA60 to three domestic
airports, H Hasan Aroeboesman in Ende
province, Frans Sales Lega in Ruteng and
Umbu Mehang Kunda in Waingapu, due to
dangerous surrounding terrain.
Bhakti says airlines have been warned
to maintain their aircraft according to
manufacturers' schedules at all times. "We
will not hesitate to ground any aircraft that
falls short on maintenance and action will be
taken against the airline concerned," he says.
State-owned Merpati signed a contract
with Xian on 7 June 2006 to acquire 15
MA60s, priced at US$15.46 million each. The
agreement was the largest single order for the
MA60 and China's Export-Import Bank agreed
to provide a 50 percent loan to help finance
the deal. The airline took delivery of the first
of the 15 purchased aircraft in late 2009. The
remaining 14 were delivered through to 3
June this year.
Two leased aircraft were delivered to
Merpati in August 2007, under an agreement
giving the carrier the option to buy them. On
8 May 2009, Merpati engineers found cracks
on the rudder of one, then a similar defect
on another aircraft four months later. XAC
engineers were called in to fix the problem.
Merpati officials in Surabaya decline to
confirm or deny whether the two aircraft
remain grounded. One source at the airline
says that two of its MA60s have been idle for
Merpati Director Sardjono Jhony
Tjitrokusumo denies that carrier rushed
into signing the deal to acquire the aircraft,
despite safety concerns arising from earlier
accidents involving MA60s operated by
carriers in the Philippines and Zimbabwe.
The grounding of Merpati's two MA60s
casts fresh doubt on aviation safety in the
country. In April 2007, the European Union
banned 51 Indonesian carriers from flying
to the 27-nation bloc, following a series of
incidents and accidents involving the country's
Investigations into the May crash
are continuing, and no cause has been
determined as yet. According to Aris
Munandar, a spokesman for PT Merpati
Workers Union (PTMWU), the pilot of the
fatal aircraft, although experienced, was not
rated to fly the MA60. Merpati denies the
union's allegations. -- William Dennis
Indonesia warns airlines on safety
Philippines-based low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air says it will focus
its expansion efforts on North Asia over the next few years, adding
capacity and launching new services.
The airline launched four-times weekly flights between
Manila and Busan, South Korea, using Airbus A320 jetliners
on 15 June. Busan is the airline's second Korean destination
after the capital, Seoul.
Later this year, Cebu Pacific will also add flights to Beijing
and Guangzhou in China, and Osaka in Japan, to cope with
increasing demand. It has furthermore applied to regulatory
bodies in Japan and the Philippines to launch flights to Tokyo
Should the applications be successful, the two Japanese
cities will be added to Cebu Pacific's winter schedule.
In the Japanese market, the airline now offers thrice-
weekly flights linking Manila and Cebu to Osaka. Its
international network currently covers 14 destinations.
Cebu Pacific is the leading carrier in the Philippines'
domestic aviation market, with 45 percent market share,
operating to 32 domestic destinations. Its fleet totals 33
aircraft, including 10 A320 jetliners, 15 smaller A319s and
eight ATR72-500 turboprops.
Cebu Pacific will take delivery of 16 more A320s between
2012 and 2014. The airline was established in 1988 but only
began operations eight years later, initially using a fleet of
Boeing MD-80 jets. It launched international flights in 2001.
-- William Dennis
Cebu Pacific to focus on
North Asian expansion
10 AsianAviation | JULY-AUGUST 2011
Cebu Pacific now operates 25 Airbus A320-family aircraft.
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