Indonesia: Sriwijaya Air Plane feared to have crashed with 62 onboard

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Recently, a Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 plunged into the Java Sea shortly after take-off. The Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 lost contact with air traffic control about four minutes after take-off. There were 62 passengers and crew on-board, including 10 children.  Incidents like these have created a concern regarding the security and safety of Indonesia’s aviation system.

Indonesia’s aviation record is one of the worst in Asia, with more civilian airliner passenger accidents since 1945 than any other country in the region. Past accidents have been attributed to poor pilot training, mechanical failures, air traffic control issues and poor aircraft maintenance.

Reasons behind frequent plane crashes-

  • Suharto resigned as the President of Indonesia in 1998, following the collapse of support for his three-decade-long presidency. The resignation followed severe economic and political crises over the previous six to twelve months.
  • The economy opened its door following decades of dictatorships; there was little regulation or oversight of the industry.
  • Low-cost air carriers flooded the market, enabling flying to become a common way for many to travel across the vast archipelago nation, which has many areas that still lack efficient or safe transportation infrastructure.

Indonesia has had 104 civilian airliner accidents with over 1,300 related fatalities since 1945, ranking it as the most dangerous place to fly in Asia. The United States banned Indonesian carriers from operating in the country from 2007 to 2016 because they were “deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures.” The European Union had a similar ban from 2007 until 2018.

Recent developments to curb the issue-

  • Engagement with the industry has significantly improved and oversight has become more rigorous.
  • Now, Indonesia’s aviation industry has more frequent inspections, stronger regulation of maintenance facilities and procedures, and better pilot training.
  • The US Federal Aviation Administration granted Indonesia a Category 1 rating in 2016, meaning it determined that the country complied with International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards.