Two Indonesian passenger jets suffered minor damage in a runway incident yesterday, the latest aviation accident in the country where a boom in air travel has raised major safety concerns and caused a series of near misses.
A Wings Air ATR-72 was preparing for take-off when a larger Lion Air Boeing 737 clipped the ATR's right wing while landing at the Kualanamu International Airport (KIA) in Medan, North Sumatra, at about noon Singapore time.
None of the passengers or crew members was hurt but the incident caused operations at the airport to be suspended for at least 20 minutes, said KIA communications manager Wisnu Budi Setianto.
The Lion Air flight, with 144 passengers, was arriving from Banda Aceh while the Wings Air plane was leaving Medan for Meulaboh when the accident occurred. Wings Air is a subsidiary of the Lion Air Group.
Sixty-six passengers were on the Wings Air flight. "All our passengers are safe and no one is injured," said Lion Air Group spokesman Andy Saladin in a press release.
Images of the damaged aircraft were circulating online.
The incident comes after a Garuda Indonesia flight from Denpasar, which was into its final approach to land, nearly collided with a Sriwijaya Air plane on the runway.
That near miss, which occurred at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta on June 18, was the second such incident involving planes from the same Indonesian airlines.
In April, a Garuda flight arriving from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, nearly landed on a runway where a Sriwijaya Air aircraft was just about to take off. A collision was avoided only after ground control staff at Soekarno-Hatta directed the Garuda plane to abort the landing.
The last time an aircraft clipped the wing of another plane on a runway in Indonesia was in May last year, when two Lion Air planes collided in Jakarta.
Another similar incident happened a month before, when an aircraft operated by Batik Air, which is also part of the Lion Air Group, clipped a Trans Nusa plane, according to an Agence France-Presse report yesterday.
The Indonesian government has been pushing hard to enhance the local aviation sector in recent years in a bid to boost air connectivity and drive tourism.Indonesia's ambition to become a major regional aviation player also involves reclaiming the Flight Information Region (FIR), which Singapore currently controls for take-offs, landings and overflights in the region.
Two weeks ago, state-run air navigation service operator AirNav Indonesia announced that it is finalising preparations to take over control of the airspace above the Riau Islands by 2018. But that plan suffered an embarrassing setback last week when Indonesian air traffic controllers, in an expose by The Jakarta Post, warned of the risk of aircraft collisions and accidents unless their workload is eased.
The Indonesian Air Traffic Controllers Association complained that Soekarno-Hatta has been struggling to cope with the rapid growth in air travel and cited a decision by AirNav to regularly allow 84 take-offs and landings an hour at the airport during the Hari Raya Puasa travel period. The group said the 84 hourly take-offs and landings were beyond the airport's handling capacity.
Indonesia's Transportation Ministry said the maximum flight frequency at the airport had been increased to accommodate growing demand from aviation companies.