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Post Accidents, Authorities enforce strict Air Safety Standards

Sunday March 25, 2007

In the aftermath of two fatal air tragedies in the past three months, the government has audited all Indonesian domestic air transport operators. On Thursday evening, 22 March, the new Director General for Air Transportation, Budhi M. Suyitno, announced the results of the audit made, as follows:

Based on 20 parameters, said Budhi Suyitno, operators have been  placed into three categories. In Category One are those who have met all criteria. In category two are those that have met minimum safety standard parameters but still lack optimum performance, while in category three are those that have met minimum safety standards, but still have serious problems, that may jeopardize passenger safety. These need to be corrected within three months. Failing which, their Air Operations Certificates (AOC) will be suspended, said Suyitno.  

None of the airlines have made it into category one, Suyitno said, while falling into category three are 7 airlines. These are (1) Adam Air, (2) Jatayu (3) Kartika Airlines (4) Batavia Air; (5) Trans Wisata Air, and two cargo airlines, namely (6) Manunggal Air and (7) Tri MG Asia Airlines. If within three months no acceptable corrections have been made, these will be grounded.

Into category two are airlines, although meeting minimum safety standards, still need a number of corrections, details of which have been given to the respective operators.
These are:
(1) Garuda Indonesia, (2) Indonesia AirAsia, (3) Lion Air, (4) Merpati Nusantara Airlines, (5) Mandala Airlines, (6) Pelita Air, (7) Wing Air; (8) Riau Airlines; (9) Trigana Air (10) Sriwijaya Air (11) Travel Express; and (12) charter operator Ekspres Transportasi Antarbenua and (13) cargo airline Republic Express.

Meanwhile, three aircrafts of Dirgantara Air have been grounded.

In an interview on ANTV Thursday night, at which were present Director General Budhi Suyitno, INACA Secretary General, Tengku Burhanuddin, and Adam Air President Director Adam Suherman on line, Suyitno explained that included among the 20 parameters of audit are the number of accidents, serious incidents, or incidents the operator has been involved in, professional human resources available, administration and management, and aircraft operations. Earlier, Media Indonesia elaborated that each parameter is given a value between 0 to 10 points. Operators meeting a value between 180-200 points will be placed into category 1, while those reaching a value of 120-180 will be placed into category 2, these are airlines showing average performance and having met minimum air safety standards. Whereas, those rated below 120 lack a number of requirements that potentially endanger safety, and, therefore, fall into category three.

Adam Air, for example, who is in Category 3 received a number of notations. One of its aircraft with all passengers and crew on board had plunged into the deep Makassar Straits on New Year’s day, killing all. Soon after, the airline experienced a serious accident in Surabaya, although all passengers were safe. Notations  on Adam Air, Sutyitno said are, among others: (a) previous audit results had not been followed up; (b) the airline had experienced more than two accidents in the past three months, and more than one serious incident besides a number of incidents. Adam Air has received 4 sanctions; and has never been given a safety award.

Asked to comment on these, Adam Air owner over the phone said that he accepted the assessment made by the government, and was most thankful for this (presumably because the airline was not grounded, as was expected by the public.ed). The Airline promised to meet all requirements and make the necessary corrections within three months.

On his side, however, INACA’s Burhanuddin said that the airline association will abide by the rules, regulations and government policies, and was most happy that these strict regulations are finally being enforced. However, the question that Burhanuddin kept reiterating, was why has it taken the government so long to enforce these, since these safety regulations had existed all along.  Therefore, government agencies must equally take responsibility for having permitted these airlines to operate despite their shortcomings.  Therefore, it s not only  airlines who must abide by safety standards, but government regulators and inspectors must also be free from private or group interests (economic, political or otherwise) and remain independent and objective. However, it is better late than never at all, Burhanuddin added philosophically.

Another regret expressed by INACA was the fact that not one single airline has made it into the Category one list. Garuda Indonesia has its own excellent maintenance facilities, that are also used by other international airlines. But, he understood, that the recent Yogya accident that killed 21 people, still remains a setback for Garuda to make it to the top list.

What INACA expected from government regulators from this point onward are firm actions and continued consistency. 

Meanwhile, Indonesian airline experts have stated their opinion privately that it is  Indonesia’s domestic airline policy which is among the most liberal even by world standards, that has placed an inordinate amount of stress on operators and pilots alike to compete. Therefore, to survive within this laissez-faire liberal policy, operators and pilots will force themselves to meet financial targets, thereby, most often jeopardizing passengers’ safety.