Af­ter plane crash, new fo­cus on tor­rid in­dus­try growth in In­done­sia

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

In April 2013, a Lion Air Boe­ing 737 missed the run­way on the In­done­sian re­sort is­land of Bali in bad weather and ploughed into the sea, crack­ing its fuse­lage open on the rocks.

All 108 on board sur­vived. But a Septem­ber 2014 re­port by In­done­sia’s air crash in­ves­ti­ga­tors high­lighted er­rors and poor train­ing, say­ing the 24-year-old co-pi­lot had failed to ad­here to the “ba­sic prin­ci­ples of jet air­craft fly­ing.”

Lion Air, strug­gling to get off a Eu­ro­pean Union black­list be­cause of “un­ad­dressed safety con­cerns,” asked Air­bus, which sup­plies part of its fleet, to help im­prove train­ing. The EU re­moved the pri­vately owned bud­get air­line from the list in 2016 af­ter it de­ter­mined Lion Air met in­ter­na­tional safety stan­dards. None of In­done­sia’s roughly 100 air­lines - most of them tiny - database lists 101, but some are sub­sidiaries re­main on the EU black­list, with the last few com­ing off in June. All were banned in 2007; the na­tional car­rier, Garuda In­done­sia, was the first to be re­moved in 2009. The crash of a Lion Air jet on Oct. 29 into the sea off Jakarta has put a spot­light back on the air­line’s safety record, although the cause re­mains un­de­ter­mined. None of the air­craft’s 189 pas­sen­gers and crew sur­vived. Lion Air’s lat­est cri­sis il­lus­trates the chal­lenge rel­a­tively new car­ri­ers face as they try to keep pace with un­stop­pable de­mand for air travel in de­vel­op­ing na­tions while striv­ing for stan­dards that ma­ture mar­kets took decades to reach. Re­tired air force chief of staff Chap- py Hakim, an ad­viser to the trans­port min­istry, told Reuters he avoided fly­ing with Lion Air or other In­done­sian air­lines, with the ex­cep­tion of Garuda, which has not had a fa­tal crash since 2007.

“I know Garuda,” he said of the na­tional car­rier. “The other air­lines, I don’t be­lieve they do the main­te­nance and train­ing prop­erly.” He de­clined to elab­o­rate fur­ther. Lion Air Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Daniel Pu­tut dis­puted any lax­ity in the air­line’s safety cul­ture, stress­ing that it con­ducted main­te­nance in ac­cor­dance with man­u­fac- turer guide­lines. The Direc­torate Gen­eral of Civil Avi­a­tion, the In­done­sian avi­a­tion au­thor­ity, did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment about Lion Air’s safety record. Pu­tut, a for­mer pi­lot, also told Reuters dur­ing a visit to the air­line’s train­ing cen­tre near the Jakarta air­port that it com­plied with all reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments. He said Lion Air had worked hard to in­stall an at­ti­tude of “zero tol­er­ance” for ac­ci­dents af­ter the Bali crash, mak­ing last week’s dis­as­ter a painful eye-opener. Thou­sands of Lion Air flights have taken off and landed with­out se­ri­ous in­ci­dent since then.

“We are also look­ing into what went wrong— new air­craft, ex­pe­ri­enced crews, and we have ap­plied the ze­ro­tol­er­ance cul­ture, yet an­other ac­ci­dent hap­pened,” Pu­tut said. “But we still don’t know the cause, so we will wait for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion from NTSC (Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Com­mit­tee).” Frank Caron, head of a risk con­sult­ing firm who served as Lion Air’s safety man­ager from 2009 to 2011 af­ter in­sur­ance com­pa­nies re­quested a for­eign ex­pert, said that at the time he was trou­bled by what he re­garded as the air­line’s at­ti­tude that ac­ci­dents were in­evitable.

“Safety is much more than run­ning con­cepts and pro­ce­dures,” he said. “Safety is a spirit, a state of mind, a way of think­ing, an at­ti­tude in the daily as­pects of an oper­a­tional life. And that is pre­cisely what Lion never got. They would say, ‘The air­line has 250 flights a day, it is not ab­nor­mal that you have ac­ci­dents.’” For ex­am­ple, af­ter the 2013 Bali crash, Lion Air co-founder Rusdi Ki­rana told lo­cal me­dia who asked about the air­line’s safety record: “If we are seen to have many ac­ci­dents, it’s be­cause of our fre­quency of flights.” Caron claimed he left Lion Air af­ter some of his safety rec­om­men­da­tions were not im­ple­mented. Lion Air’s chief ex­ec­u­tive de­clined to com­ment on Caron’s ac­count of his de­par­ture or his other as­ser­tions. In­done­sian ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors made four rec­om­men­da­tions af­ter the Bali crash, in­clud­ing that Lion Air should “en­sure that all pi­lots must be com­pe­tent in hand fly­ing” and teach proper cock­pit co­or­di­na­tion.

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