Culture of air safety in Indonesia almost non-existent, analyst says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2007, 12:00am

Indonesia's air safety record is again being called into question after a passenger jet burst into flames yesterday, killing dozens of people in the country's second aviation tragedy in nine weeks.

The accident 'reinforces the view that the culture of safety is almost non-existent in Indonesia,' said Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst with Standard & Poor's equity research in Singapore.

'Given the frequency of airplane accidents there, it also poses questions to investors on the potential for any form of investment into the low-cost carriers that are growing in that country.'

The accident occurred barely two months after a Boeing 737-400 owned by low-fare carrier Adam Air with 102 people on board crashed off the island of Sulawesi on New Year's Day, leaving no survivors.

Last month, Indonesian authorities grounded all Boeing 737-300 aircraft operated by Adam Air after the fuselage of one of the planes cracked during a hard landing, although none of the 148 passengers and six crew was injured.

A former Adam Air pilot, Sutan Salahuddin, in January accused the firm of forcing pilots to fly aircraft lacking safety clearance or with malfunctioning parts.

Mr Shukor said Indonesia needs to overhaul its aviation safety procedures, otherwise more such accidents will take place. 'It is not the age of the aircraft,' he said. 'It is the lack of personnel who are trained to look after those aircraft.'

Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent of industry magazine Orient Aviation, said: 'I think there's certainly a need for higher safety standards in Indonesia.'

The challenge is magnified by the entry of smaller players as the Indonesian aviation industry is increasingly liberalised, but these smaller players do not have the finances to ensure strict implementation of safety standards, he said.

There is also a lack of capable inspectors and safety operations experts within the government to ensure that no one is cutting corners, he said.

'You can't check an airplane once in every six months,' Ballantyne said. 'You need regular checks to look at maintenance procedures and make sure they are [on a par with] world standards.'