Take aircraft maintenance more seriously

Budget airlines have been a great boost to the airline industry by offering affordable prices for regional air travel.

The business model of these airlines is simply to operate on quick turnarounds, with minimal frills and to ensure that their aircraft operate for the maximum possible number of hours in the air.

However, the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 last year was a wake-up call.

Pilots and aircraft have to be in tip-top condition to ensure a low risk of aircraft disaster.

In the case of Flight QZ8501, the adequacy of the pilots' training and that of aircraft maintenance have been called into question, even as the faulty rudder was pinpointed as having been the cause of the crash ("AirAsia crash probe points to faulty rudder"; yesterday).

The report on the crash found that the rudder had to be fixed 23 times over the preceding 12 months leading up to the crash.

This should have been a red flag for the maintenance crew and the airline.

Even the best pilot would have his hands full during a crisis in the air, if a plane is poorly maintained in the first place .

With lives lost when such accidents happen, and with the budget airline industry continuing to boom, there must be stricter laws and regulations to prevent a recurrence of such an event.

If an airline is negligent in its duties to ensure proper maintenance of its aircraft or ensure the safety of its passengers, the law should throw the book at the airline and even consider criminal charges.

There can be no compromise on air safety.

Lessons must be learnt from the Flight QZ8501 crash and be applied to the whole industry to make flying safer.

Raymond Koh Bock Swi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'Take aircraft maintenance more seriously'. Subscribe