The civil aviation authorities of Indonesia and Myanmar have ordered the grounding of Merpati Nusantara Airlines’ and Myanmar Airways’ Xi’an Aircraft Industries MA-60 fleets for airworthiness checks following a series of accidents.
A Merpati MA-60 crashed at El Tari Airport in Kupang, in east Indonesia, on June 10. On the same day a Myanmar MA-60 skidded and overshot the runway after landing at the Kawthaung Airport.
The Merpati aircraft is a write-off, according to airline official Harry Saptanto. In Yangon, Myanmar’s director general of Civil Aviation, Tin Naing Tun, described the damage to the Myanmar Airways aircraft as severe.
Merpati’s fleet of MA-60s now numbers 13. It ordered 15 in 2005. One airplane, delivered in 2008, crashed in 2011 in west Papua, killing 25 of the 27 people on board.
An Indonesian Ministry of Transportation spokesman expected checks on Merpati’s fleet to take at least three months, while Tin declined to predict the duration of the Myanmar Airways grounding.
Following Merpati’s acceptance of its first MA-60 in 2008, the airline refused subsequent scheduled deliveries, citing what it considered substandard operational reliability, a move that prompted Xi’an to threaten legal action. The sides eventually resolved their differences and the airline took delivery of the aircraft from late 2011 into the following year.
Philippines low-cost airline Zest Air retired its four MA-60s this past May after a landing crash and a runway overrun at Caticlan Airport in the Philippine town of Malay. Neither accident resulted in fatalities. Chinese carriers Wuhan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines have stored three and two MA-60s, respectively, since 2004.