Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Indonesian airlines

Earlier this year, the European Union (EU) banned 51 Indonesian airlines, including national airline Garuda from entering EU Airspace.

Indonesia has suffered from rampant airline accidents for the last 10 years, claiming thousands of lives.

Most recently, at the beginning of this year, an Adam Air aircraft with more than 100 people on board lost contact and disappeared over the waters around Sulawesi, Indonesia, and in March a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the runway in Yogyakarta in central Java and burst into flames, killing 21 people, including several from the Australian Embassy.

Prior to the EU announcement, the United States' Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) had downgraded Indonesia to Category 2. Category 2 indicates that the FAA has assessed the government of Indonesia's Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization aviation-safety standards for the oversight of Indonesia's air-carrier operations. This effectively banned all of Indonesia's air carriers from entering US airspace.

Some argue that the problem in the Indonesian airline industry is they are trying to grow too quickly, without an adequate supply of properly trained pilots. While I am no expert in the field, I think it would be, by extension, logical to conclude that there is a dearth of properly trained personnel at all levels of the industry right from senior management down to the people maintaining the aircraft. What Indonesia needs is better training, not necessarily spanking new aircraft.

Having said that, here is a photo I took in October 2007 of the tail of an aircraft during a fueling stop in Medan, on a flight between Banda Aceh and Jakarta. It looks like a piece of aluminium (or duct tape?) is peeling away from the aircraft tail. While the flight arrived safely, it makes one stop to wonder if this is what is visible, imagine what issues we can't see!