Flight QZ8501: Pilots hit back at transport minister

Indonesian Minister of Transportation Ignatius Jonan.

Indonesia has pledged to investigate alleged flight violations by AirAsia, saying the aircraft had been flying on an unauthorised schedule when it crashed.

A total of 162 people were on board when the plane crashed into the sea during a storm on Dec 28, en route to Singapore from the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

The airline has now been suspended from flying the Surabaya-Singapore route, AFP reported.

At a press conference yesterday, director-general of air transport Djoko Murjatmodjo was asked how the airline had flown the schedule for three months without the transport ministry's knowledge.

"This is what we are trying to investigate: What did we miss and is the report system working properly. Hopefully, we can finish this soon so we can take action as soon as possible," he said.

The Jakarta Post reported on Sunday that leaked official documents showed that AirAsia Indonesia may have violated procedures that led to the disaster.

A document sent to Indonesia's Transportation Minister Ignatius Jonan (left, inset) by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) last week allegedly revealed that the pilots of the flight had not received a required weather report from the agency. BMKG head Andi E. Sakya said AirAsia collected the BMKG weather report at 7am on the day it crashed - more than an hour after the plane's 5.35am departure.

Mr Ignatius reportedly chastised AirAsia Indonesia executives last week, after a director with the airline, the local unit of Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, suggested that it was not necessary for a pilot to have a weather briefing by a flight operations officer before taking off.

"When we have regulations, you must comply with them; don't attempt to violate them. I can revoke your license," Mr Ignasius was quoted as saying by Indonesian news portal Kompas.com.

But the minister's reported outburst has drawn protest from some Indonesian pilots, reported The Jakarta Globe. Some wrote "open letters" to the minister in response and published the letters online.


Senior pilot Sardjono Jhony Tjitrokusumo criticised the minister's reprimand in a statement to the press.

"Don't make things up and say pilots are at fault if they don't undergo briefing. It is not part of the required procedures (before taking off)," he wrote.

"There is no such thing as pilots being briefed before a flight. Pilots of airlines around the world do self-briefings. They get printed weather information from systems used by their (respective) airlines; that information is provided before they fly," Mr Sardjono said.

"Can you imagine if all pilots from all flights were to be briefed on weather conditions by the BMKG? How many of them will have to stand in line for that? Where should they queue?

"Don't be ridiculous, especially those who have no knowledge of aviation."

This article was first published on Jan 06, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.