The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee’s recent final accident report on the May 9, 2012 crash of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 appears to leave little doubt the accident that killed all 45 people aboard was the result of pilot error.
The aircraft hit terrain in a mountainous region 75 nm south-southeast of Jakarta during an IFR demonstration flight. The Sukhoi arrived in the Mount Salak area at 10,000 feet. The crew quickly requested descent to 6,000 feet, 1,354 feet below the highest peak in the area. Six minutes later, just 32 seconds before impact, the Sukhoi’s terrain awareness warning system announced, “Terrain ahead. Pull up.” The Taws issued six more crew warnings to “Avoid Terrain” before the crash. The pilot-in-command, apparently believing the warning messages were erroneous, inhibited the Taws. Seven seconds before impact, the Taws could be heard again warning, “Landing gear not down.”
The final report lists as contributing factors to the crash the crew’s lack of terrain awareness, the inhibiting of the Taws alerts and prolonged non-flight-related cockpit conversation by the crew below 10,000 feet that caused the pilot flying to lose situational awareness. Jakarta’s approach radar also does not employ a minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) system that would have alerted ATC to the aircraft’s situation.
A post-crash simulation demonstrated that the crew could have avoided the accident as long as 24 seconds after the first Taws alert.