Why It Matters

Air safety fears still unaddressed

Security forces removing debris at the crash site of an Indonesian military C-130 transport plane which crashed in Medan.
Security forces removing debris at the crash site of an Indonesian military C-130 transport plane which crashed in Medan. PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesia's already appalling air safety record has been dealt another severe blow.

More than 140 people are feared dead after an ageing military Lockheed C-130B Hercules plane rammed into buildings and cars before crashing in the North Sumatran city of Medan.

As the gruesome task of recovering bodies continues, memories are fresh of last year's Dec 28 crash of an Indonesia AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore that killed all 162 people on board.

With the latest tragedy, Indonesia retains its unflattering record of at least one major air accident a year since 2010, a stark statistic flagged by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) after the AirAsia mishap.

That crash highlighted concerns about whether pilots are adequately trained to deal with severe weather conditions and if there are procedures in place for proper pre-flight briefings.

The latest incident has revived worries about using planes that should have been retired.

The larger question is whether the Indonesian authorities are actively addressing these concerns.

Of the country's more than 60 airlines operating either scheduled or chartered services, only national carrier Garuda has undergone and passed Iata's safety audit.

Indonesia is the largest South-east Asian country and accounts for about 40 per cent of the total population of the 10 Asean nations. The dismal state of its aviation sector is worrying for travellers, including those from Singapore, given the many flights between the two countries.

If the problems are not fixed fast, the risk to passengers is unthinkable, not least since Indonesia is expected to triple its total passenger traffic to become the world's sixth-biggest air travel market.

After the AirAsia crash, the Indonesian aviation authorities vowed to clean up the sector.

That was a welcome commitment, but words must be translated into action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Why It Matters: Air safety fears still unaddressed '. Print Edition | Subscribe