Indonesia’s Aviation Safety Has Improved, But A Lot Remains
November 3, 2021
The Sriwijaya Airlines Flight 182 tragedy serves as a warning to aviation safety regulators worldwide. The Boeing 737-500 crashed into the ocean just four minutes after it took off from Jakarta on January 9th, in heavy rain. All 62 passengers and crew were killed. The cause of the crash is still unknown.
Naturally, the tragedy raised concerns about Indonesia’s safety standards in air travel. The nation has made great strides to improve their safety standards over the past decade. There is still much to be done. Regulators will need to be vigilant about aviation safety as commercial aviation recovers after its COVID stall.
The Indonesian commercial civil aviation sector has seen explosive growth over the past 20 years, with passengers rising from 10 million in 2000 up to 115 millions in 2018.
This is due to Indonesia’s geography and population. With more than 270million people living on five main islands and approximately 6,000 smaller ones, it is the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India and the United States.
Air travel is the most convenient way to travel. It has become more affordable thanks to both competition (the government opened domestic airlines to competition in 1990s) as well rising incomes (with the GDP per capita increasing by a whopping 22% since 2000).
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Indonesia’s commercial passenger air market will be fourth in the world by 2039.
Safety At The Cost Of?
In Indonesia, the explosive growth of air travel was initially at the cost of safety. There were several serious incidents and major disasters in the 2000s.
These include Mandala Airlines Flight 91 which crashed into a neighborhood in Medan in September 2005, killing 149 people. Garuda Indonesia Flight 200 also crashed in Yogyakarta in March 2007, killing 20 passengers and one crew member.
The European Union responded by banning all Indonesian airlines from its airspace on July 2007. This ban was lifted partially in June 2018.
Safety Has Improved
The Aviation Safety Network data shows improvements in Indonesia’s aviation safety record. Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia had 27 fatal aviation accidents. There were 18 fatal aviation incidents in Indonesia between 2000 and 2009. Significant progress has been made in implementing International Civil Aviation Organization standards.
According to the International Aviation Safety Assessment Program of the US Federal Aviation Administration, Indonesia is a Category 1 nation. This means that Indonesia’s aviation sector meets ICAO standards and permits Indonesian airlines to fly to the US.
However, there is still much to done in order to raise Indonesia’s aviation safety to the level of other OECD countries. For example, Japan has only had five fatalities in aviation since 2000.
The US is the largest aviation market in the world, and the most recent crash that resulted in similar deaths to Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 occurred in February 2009. Colgan Air Flight 3407 was a turboprop plane flying between Newark (New Jersey) and Buffalo (New York), shortly before arriving. It killed all 49 passengers on board as well as one person on the ground.
Global Safety In Aviation
The safety record of commercial passenger airline regulation is something that can be proudly proclaim worldwide. According to aviation experts, 2017 was the most secure year in commercial aviation history. There were only 79 deaths from incidents involving commercial flights in 2017, which is impressive considering that airlines carried almost 4 billion passengers. All metrics show that flying in the 21st Century is safer than the 20th century.
However, regional disparities persist. An IATA analysis found that Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Russia and eight other ex-Soviet countries, have significantly worse safety records than other regions. The global average is roughly the same for the Asia Pacific region (which includes Indonesia).