Chinese-made aircraft on the skids

RUNWAY FIASCO: This Chinese-made MA60 plane overshot a runway in Myanmar last month. On Monday, MA60 aircraft were involved in two accidents in Indonesia and Myanmar.


    Jun 12, 2013

    Chinese-made aircraft on the skids

    THE safety of the Chinese-made MA60 twin-turboprop aircraft is again being questioned after it was involved in two separate accidents in Indonesia and Myanmar on Monday.

    An MA60 operated by Indonesia's Merpati Nusantara Airlines hard-landed in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, while an aircraft operated by Myanmar Airlines swerved off the runway in Kawthaung, Myanmar. In the middle of last month, an MA60 overshot the end of a runway at an airport in Myanmar's eastern Shan State, injuring two people.

    Myanmar has grounded its Chinese-made MA60 planes for safety checks, a senior official said yesterday.

    "I think the accidents happened because of system failure. We will check all the systems. That's why we stopped the operation of the planes," Civil Aviation Department director-general Tin Naing Tun said.

    In May 2011, an MA60 operated by Merpati crashed in West Papua province, killing 25 people.

    Following that accident, the Indonesian authorities banned the plane from landing at three airports for safety reasons.

    Monday's accident is another blow to Merpati. The procurement of the Chinese planes was controversial, putting the debt-ridden airline under public scrutiny.

    The Attorney-General's Office launched an investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the MA60 procurement, after it had found preliminary indications that the purchase might have violated legal procedures.

    Some analysts, including former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla, have said that the MA60 is not airworthy as it has not yet been certified by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Aviation observer Dudi Sudibyo, however, said that the absence of an FAA certification did not mean that the aircraft was of poor quality.

    He said: "It is, however, an enormous assurance if an aircraft is FAA-certified."