Marwoto Komar was arrested in July 2008 after a Boeing 737-400 with 140 passengers that he piloted crashed on landing at Yogyakarta airport in March 2007 (left). Prosecutors said that he was criminally negligent for the deaths and the courts agreed.
Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Commission said in its final report into the accident that the aircraft was far too high and fast on its final approach. Despite ground-proximity warning alerts, a flap deployment of just 5° and calls from the co-pilot for a go-around, the captain did not abandon the approach. The aircraft overran the runway and burst into flames.
The verdict will raise the ire of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations (IFALPA), which condemned Komar's arrest and said that the investigation failed to address fully the reasons for the crew's actions. It reiterated its stance that the criminalisation of individuals involved in accidents "does little" to improve air transport safety.
Given that Indonesia has had several high-profile crashes in recent years, the government probably felt it had to show that it was doing something to address the problem. There are other issues, however, that the country must address including the lax safety records of some carriers and a lack of investment in airport infrastructure.
The debate over whether pilots should be held criminally responsible for air crashes is a separate issue from the fact that airlines and airport authorities are just as important to ensuring air safety in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world.