Investigations by an aviation auditing firm that advises major firms about the risks of flying in other countries has found that Yogyakarta Airport was in breach of its major safety obligations — and therefore effectively unlicensed — when a Garuda jet crashed there on 7 March 2007 killing 21 people, including five Australians.

The discovery, by Flight Safety Pty Ltd, has potentially massive implications for the pursuit of compensation by those injured and maimed in the crash and the relatives of those killed.

The owner and CEO of the firm, Colin Weir, says the Australian Transport Safety Bureau is also compromised by the findings.

Weir’s statement, published below, also raises questions as to what is really happening to the $12 million worth of Australian aid pledged after the crash to assist Indonesia in repairing its air safety deficiencies:

We were called in to audit Garuda Airlines by a company that does business in the republic immediately after the accident, with terms of reference that included a systems analysis tasking to identify failures that caused the accident.

The audit findings included deficiencies identified with airport limitations and this then led into a requirement for us to audit some of the regional airports to assess the status quo. We audited Solo, Yogyakarta and Semarang Airports.

What we found was very disturbing; these three airports had invalid Airport Operating Certificates, in effect they were unlicensed. At the time of the Yogyakarta accident the Airport’s licence was null and void.

The DGCA (Indonesian Regulatory Authority) had issued a licence valid for 5 years, but subject to 5 conditions being met within 12 months. This period lapsed in July 2006 and the accident happened 6 months later. The conditions included a stipulation that the RESA (Runway End Safety Area) would be extended and that the DGCA would audit 6 months later and then at the end of the 12 month period. None of these requirements was done rendering the licence null and void.

Our client would not allow us to release the report because it was too sensitive, but eventually after about 3 months it leaked out in Indonesia, only to be quickly covered up as the repercussions were enormous.

We notified ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal and they informed us that it was under control as the ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) was handling everything in Jakarta. I then contacted the ATSB in Jakarta and it turned out that they were unaware that Yogyakarta was unlicensed as their audit immediately after the accident had not uncovered the licensing failure. The reason for this was that they had only been given the front page of the airport certificate and had missed the small print at the bottom of the page referring to the conditions in question.

We were then told by the Indonesian Director of Aviation Safety that the deficiencies had been rectified, however we have just conducted a re-audit only to find that there is no change to Solo and Yogyakarta.

The final conclusion reached is that everyone is keeping quiet; the ATSB, ICAO and Indonesian authorities are all compromised.

The families of the victims in this accident are unaware of these failings and the associated liability implications with legal action and potential insurance claims.

It should now be exposed as the safety issues remain unresolved.

Colin Weir

The ATSB has been invited to comment, but made no reply by Crikey’s deadline this monring.

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