Why It Matters

All must act to ensure air safety

File photo of an Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320-200 passenger preparing to land at Sukarno-Hatta airport in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta.PHOTO: REUTERS

A day after Indonesia's air safety authority flagged concerns about AirAsia's maintenance and pilot training regime - key factors said to have caused the crash of an Airbus aircraft last December - the airline said it had, in fact, followed procedures.

Flight QZ8501 from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore crashed when the system which controls the rudder - a part of the plane's tail - malfunctioned and the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee on Tuesday said the plane had experienced rudder problems 23 times in the 12 months before the crash.

Responding, the airline said its technical crew had rectified the faults when they happened in accordance with the Airbus maintenance and troubleshooting manuals, which is why the issue never qualified as a repetitive fault.

Airbus has so far kept mum.

Should AirAsia - the poster boy for Asia's budget carrier sector led by flamboyant Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes - shoulder the bulk of the responsibility or are there also flaws in Indonesia's air transport regulatory oversight? And could Airbus have done more?

For travellers, though, and especially those in Singapore, what's more important is for shortcomings to be addressed and plugged.

Indonesia is a key market for Changi Airport.

The Singapore-Jakarta air route, operated by 12 carriers, is Singapore's busiest and the second-busiest global international link after Hong Kong-Taipei. AirAsia alone flies from 13 Indonesian cities - including Surabaya, Bali and Bandung - to Singapore.

Air links are expected to expand further as Asean member countries, with Indonesia being the largest in the 10-member bloc, push for air liberalisation.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of every government, air safety regulator, airline and even manufacturer to see to it that safety is never compromised.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'All must act to ensure air safety'. Subscribe