World: Left-right confusion led to smog air crash

Monday 29 September 1997 23:02

"Aaaaaa! Allahu akbar!" "God is great," Rachmo Wiyogo screamed just before his Garuda Airbus A300B-4 crashed on Friday, killing all 234 people aboard.

The Associated Press obtained a copy yesterday of a transcript of the pilot's last conversation - details of which were broadcast by Indonesian televisions stations.

The transcript shows the pilot and the air traffic controller confused "left" and "right" as the jet approached Medan's Polonia airport through thick smoke haze caused by hundreds of forest fires on the island of Sumatra.

The last minute and a half of the conversation showed repeated misunderstanding. The conversation was in English, but the pilot's last scream was in Arabic. With the air traffic controller identified as "APP," and the pilot as "GIA 152," their exchanges went as follows:

APP - GIA 152 turn right heading 046 report established localiser. (Report when you have intercepted the ILS radio beam).

GIA 152 - Turn right heading 040 GIA 152 check established.

APP - Turning right sir.

Pilot: Roger 152.

Air traffic controller: 152 Confirm you're making turning left now?

Pilot: We are turning right now. GIA 152 - Roger 152.

APP - 152 Confirm you're making turning left now?

GIA 152 - We are turning right now.

APP - 152 OK you continue turning left now.

GIA 152 - A confirm turning left? We are starting turning right now.

APP - OK (pause) OK.

APP - GIA 152 continue turn right heading 015.

GIA 152 - Aaaaaa! Allahu akbar!

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