Indonesia blames pilot error for deadly Sukhoi crash

Sukhoi crash

Indonesian investigators blamed pilot error today for the deadly May crash of a Sukhoi jet, post-Soviet Russia's first passenger plane, which descended dangerously low and slammed into a volcano.

The flight, with a veteran pilot at the controls, was planned as a 40-minute joy ride to showcase the new Russian plane to prospective buyers in Indonesia, where the aviation industry is booming.

Instead, the twin-engine Sukhoi Superjet 100 slammed into the 7,200-foot (2,200-metre) dormant Mount Salak volcano, killing all 45 on board in a blow to Russia's bid to improve the image of its aviation industry.

However, the National Transport Safety Committee (KNKT) absolved Sukhoi of responsibility for the crash, ruling out technical failures in its report.

The safety board found that the aircraft's terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) had sent multiple alerts to the pilot, who switched off the device before the crash.

The TAWS had sent a 'terrain ahead' warning before the crash, followed by six 'avoid terrain' warnings. The pilot in command switched the TAWS off as he assumed there was a database problem," KNKT chief Tatang Kurniadi said.

"The crash could have been avoided if a recovery action was carried out within 24 seconds from the first warning," he told reporters.

Photos of an earlier demonstration flight on the same day as the May 9 accident showed relaxed passengers smiling on board, being treated to champagne, as well as cheerful Russian and Indonesian crew members posing outside the jet.

Questions immediately swirled over the how the crash could have occurred with veteran Russian pilot Alexander Yablontsev at the controls.

The voice data recorder revealed that a potential buyer had been in the cockpit for 38 minutes to discuss the jet's fuel usage, causing a "diversion of attention" during which the plane flew off course.

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