04 November 2007

Aircraft Safety - The Indonesian Way

The rate that Indonesian aircraft seem to be in accidents generally, and fatal accidents more specifically, should beg some pointed questions to the officials tasked with ensuring that the Indonesian sky is safe. Yet, within the last week there has been another incident where a Mandala flight crash-landed in Malang, no fatalities which is a blessing for those on board and their families, but all the same another crash statistic for Indonesian airlines.

The statistics do not lie. Indonesia's air safety record is woeful, perhaps not as bad as some other nations, but to say that "we're not the worst" is surely no saving grace or sustainable claim to fame. On an average of one million flights in Indonesia there are 3.77 fatal accidents. The world average is a mere 0.25. A statement to the effect that this is "unacceptable" is tantamount to travellers in Indonesia being short-changed by the airlines they fly with and the Government agencies tasked with supervising them. Everyone knows that it is unacceptable but what are the airlines and the Government going to do about it?

The reality is a simple one for an archipelagic nation such as Indonesia, air travel is a quick and easy way of lessening the distance between islands. This makes the movement of goods and people easier, and perhaps even more importantly for a nation that focuses so much on nationalism and demands patriotic pride from its people, then safe and efficient air travel would really give credence to the idea of "unity in diversity" as safe and efficient air travel would allow greater unity to be fostered among a diverse range of people.

Even though this is about aircraft safety, it could easily be about transport safety in general. Those who no longer fly because of the woeful safety records of Indonesia's flag carrier, Garuda, and its myriad of budget carriers have to choose between ferries for inter-island travel and trains for travel on Java, and local buses in just about all other places.

Just during this past Idul Fitri holiday there has been a fatal ferry accident. The ferry industry is both figuratively and literally overloaded. It is common practice for official passenger manifests not to reflect the total number of people on board. Trains and buses fare no better in the accident sweepstakes that seems to be travel in Indonesia.

Certainly, if nothing else, this horrendous safety record should give pause for concern. The ball is clearly in the Government's court. Simply, to use a tennis analogy, the Government must return serve or let itself be 'aced'.

Time will tell!

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