05/20/2009, 00.00
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East Java: military plane crashes, at least 97 dead

by Mathias Hariyadi
According to witnesses the plane began to loose parts mid flight. The Indonesian air force has maintenance problems and lacks spare parts.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – At least 97 people were killed when an Indonesian military transport plane crashed in Magetan, East Java.   The plane was carrying 112 passengers; 88 adults, 10 children with 14 aircrews on board. The number of victims is destined to rise given the gravity of some of the injuries.  Harsono, Chief Marshal of the Air force was onboard and is among the victims.

The C-130 Hercules A-1325 Air Transport was en route from Air Force Base Halim Perdana Kusuma in East Jakarta to Biak, in Papua. The plane made its regular stop over in Iswahjudi Air Force Base in Madiun, only some 4 kilometres away from the crash site.

According to some eyewitnesses, the plane lost power due to a technical problem. Midflight it began to loose parts and less that 500 meters before it crashed into the ground, a wing came off.  The airplane crashed into some houses and then burst into flames.

Dudi Sudibyo, senior journalist and plane expert, said that among the most serious problem is the shortage of spare parts, due to an “American embargo”. “The Indonesian Air Force has operated a big number of American air transport Hercules since 1980's. Since Washington implemented its embargo, the Indonesian Air Force has experienced a serious blow due to a shortage of spare-parts”.

Less then one month ago another air force Hercules crashed in Bandung, killing a group of soldiers.  A week ago yet another Hercules crashed in Timika (Papua) just short of landing, but without causing any victims.

The transport of passenger and goods across the vast Indonesian archipelagos largely depends on airplanes.  Because of the huge number of accidents, Indonesian airlines are banned from flying in European airspace.

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