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737 nose gear broke in 'heavy landing'

Tatang Kurniadi, chairman of the Indonesian national transportation safety commission NTSC, which is probing the fatal crash of a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-400 on 7 March, says the aircraft's nose landing gear broke off during a very heavy landing. The likely reason for the heavy landing is that the approach was too steep, he says.

Dismissing suggestions that maintenance failings may have been a contributing factor, Tatang says: "The landing gear broke off because of the impact. I think because of the high approach."

Tatang has been provided by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau - to which the NTSC delegated the task of downloading information from the aircraft's flight and voice recorders - with initial data from the flight data recorder, but declines to disclose the details. He says he is waiting to receive data from the cockpit voice recorder.

"Our counterparts at the ATSB have been unable to open it, so the CVR has been sent to [the manufacturer] Honeywell in the USA," Tatang says.

The pilots, who both survived the crash despite injury, have claimed the hard landing was caused by a strong gust of wind that dramatically increased the aircraft's sink rate as it was landing at Yogyakarta, but Tatang is dismissive about this.

He says a transcript of the conversation between the pilots and air traffic control at Yogyakarta airport suggests there were no strong winds at the time. Twenty-one of the 140 people on board the aircraft were killed in the crash when the aircraft, without its nose gear, overran the runway end and hit obstacles.

The right wing was completely severed outboard of the starboard engine and the impact projected it over the fuselage so that it came to rest on the aircraft's port side. NTSC officials have said the fire, which gutted the entire fuselage, broke out because fuel stored in the right wing tanks spilled on to the hot engine.

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