Jakarta, Indonesia – Investigators are but to find out the reason for this month’s Sriwijaya Air aircraft crash in Indonesia that killed all 63 individuals on board, however the catastrophe has as soon as once more put the highlight on upkeep, coaching and security throughout the nation’s transport system.
“There are correlations between the poor safety records of different forms of transport in Indonesia,” Ziva Arifin, president of Aviatory Indonesia, a consultancy in Jakarta, advised Al Jazeera. “But each individual sector faces unique challenges, and aviation is the sector that has seen the most significant safety improvements in recent years.”
Indonesia has recorded 104 civilian plane accidents and greater than 1,300 associated deaths since 1945, making it the Asia Pacific’s deadliest nation to fly in response to the Aviation Safety Network.
Risks rose markedly in 2001, when deregulation gave beginning to a slew of recent low-cost airways, together with Sriwijaya Air, which began operations two years later.
Amid cut-throat competitors, a subsequent value warfare contributed to poor upkeep and a string of deadly air disasters.
By 2009, the variety of accidents per million departing flights had risen to 18.35 in contrast with a world common of 4.11, in response to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and Indonesian airways had been banned from flying to the United States and the European Union.
Several new aviation legal guidelines launched later that yr pressured airways to spend money on security.
Flight attendants from Sriwijaya Air go to the positioning the place SJ 182 crashed to pay their respects to those that died [Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters]The end result was a big enchancment in security with the latest ICAO audit exhibiting Indonesia now forward of the worldwide common in 5 out of eight classes, together with accident investigations and airworthiness of planes.
The US and the EU have additionally dropped their bans on Indonesian airways.
‘Tragedies at sea’
But there have been few enhancements in different – much less high-profile – types of transport.
Indonesia has the best variety of boating and transport accidents on the earth, in response to the Baird Maritime Passenger Vessel Accident Database.
Its information reveals there have been 645 passenger vessel accidents in Indonesia since 2000 – greater than another nation on the earth – and 33,700 individuals have misplaced their lives.
The sheer variety of boats working in an archipelagic nation of 17,000 islands is a contributing issue. But so is the lax enforcement of security laws that often sees passenger and cargo limits ignored.
In 2018, greater than 200 individuals died when a ferry licensed to hold 60 passengers sank in Lake Toba, a crater lake and fashionable vacation vacation spot in Sumatra. In July, 9 individuals drowned after a wood boat licensed to hold 15 departed from Timor Island with twice that quantity on board and capsized.
“We have these constant tragedies at sea because safety inspectors at ports don’t do their jobs,” mentioned Siswanto Rusdi, director of the National Maritime Institute in Indonesia. “According to the law, any vessel that leaves port must be visually inspected to check the number of passengers, the amount of cargo carried and the condition of the boat. But in practice, this rarely happens. Most safety inspectors spend their time playing cards instead.”
Ross Taylor, president of The Indonesia Institute, a think-tank in Perth, skilled first hand the hazards on a ferry to the Thousand Islands, the string of tropical islands near Jakarta’s north coast the place Sriwijaya Air’s flight SJ182 crashed into the ocean.
“At around the halfway mark a big storm hit and massive waves began smashing over the front window, drenching everyone inside,” he recalled. “I heard a deckhand yell to the captain ‘Turn back, turn back, or we will roll over!’ Passengers were screaming and vomiting but the captain pressed on. We made it in the end, but my wife was traumatised. She never wants to visit Indonesia again.”
He provides: “It was not a one-off experience. Anyone who travels on boats in Indonesia has similar stories.”
Travelling by highway is dangerous, too. Tens of thousands and thousands of personal autos, the absence of legal guidelines setting limits for blood alcohol focus and visitors police who typically forgive violations for money bribes has helped place Indonesia in fifth place for the best variety of highway accidents on the earth, in response to the World Health Organization.
The nation’s huge fleet of buses is especially susceptible to accidents due to a leave-when-full college of scheduling that encourages passengers to face in aisles or sit on rooftops. When drivers apply brakes all of a sudden, tragedy simply follows.
Ferries have a poor security report with quite a few accidents in recent times. In July 2018, no less than 12 passengers died after a ferry sank off the coast of Selayar Island in South Sulawesi [Mustafa Syahril/EPA-EFE]An only-replace-parts-when-they-break perspective to upkeep provides to the chance. On a bus journey in West Kalimantan province this month, Al Jazeera’s reporter seen the motive force had attached an outdated water bottle with a hose on the dashboard to feed fluid into the steering system.
Flouting visitors legal guidelines can be the primary reason for the 300-odd accidents that happen at railway stage crossings in Indonesia every year, in response to the Indonesia National Traffic Accident information.
In 2019, a automobile carrying seven individuals in West Java was hit by a practice, killing everybody on board, after the motive force ignored the closed gate and alarm bells to attempt to get throughout the railway strains earlier than the practice. In June, a person narrowly escaped along with his life after driving by way of an ungated railway crossing as a practice was approaching and his automobile all of a sudden stalled.
A security inspector for the Ministry of Transport in Jakarta who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they aren’t authorised to talk to the press advised Al Jazeera complete legal guidelines and laws apply to all types of transport in Indonesia, He insisted all modes of public transport undergo “rigorous” checks in advance of their departures.
Families look forward to information from the sunken ferry KM Sinar Bangun after the boat sank on Lake Toba in North Sumatra [Dedi Sinuaji/EPA]Despite enhancements, Indonesia’s aviation trade nonetheless has some technique to go.
“While big, fatal crashes are not as common as before in Indonesia, you still see a good number of near misses, such as runway excursions following unstable approaches,” mentioned Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at FlightInternational, an aviation trade information website. “There are still signs that a comprehensive safety culture is yet to take root.”
He says the grounding of economic jets throughout the pandemic can be a priority: “A number of aircraft have been in storage for quite a while, and pilots’ skills are also a bit rusty given the relative lack of flying last year.”
Searching for solutions
Heavy rainfall that delayed the departure of Air Sriwijaya’s doomed flight SJ182 on January 9 can also have been a contributing issue within the accident.
A research by the University of New South Wales’s School of Aviation discovered dangerous climate contributed to 58 p.c of air crashes in Indonesia in contrast with a world common of 24 p.c.
Yet the most typical contributing issue, the research discovered, was an interplay between the cockpit crew. And a communication breakdown between Sriwijaya’s pilots and air visitors controllers has emerged as an early focus of the investigation.
Gerry Soejatman, an aviation marketing consultant in Jakarta, says the shortage of response by the pilots within the minutes previous the crash may recommend the pilots had been distracted by mechanical failure.
Debris from Sriwijaya Air aircraft laid out at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta [Adi Weda/EPA]“Pilots are trained to fly the aircraft first, navigate the aircraft second and communicate with air controllers last,” he explains. “If the crew was dealing with a problem they thought they could solve, it makes sense that they wouldn’t respond. Mechanical failures are not something we can rule out.”
The Indonesia Institute’s Taylor, additionally a former chairman of the Chartered Institute of Transport of Australia and a former government within the worldwide air cargo trade, says a mixture of poor upkeep and disaster coaching contributes to many transport accidents in Indonesia.
“When things go wrong in Indonesia it can often lead to disaster because whoever is in charge hasn’t necessarily been trained on how to deal with emergencies,” he mentioned.
“And the quality of their equipment, things like radar that can help the pilot deal with emergencies, is often found wanting. We know Sriwijaya’s flight left in bad weather, so investigators will ask what kind of radar the aircraft had. It was probably an old-fashioned type that tells a pilot there’s a thunderstorm up ahead but can’t tell them if there’s another storm behind it like the state-of-the-art equipment can.”
Aviation marketing consultant Soejatman confirms the 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 was nonetheless fitted with its authentic radar system, however stresses any dialogue about the reason for the crash stays speculative in the meanwhile.
Search groups have recovered the aircraft’s flight information recorder, which is probably going to offer some clues about what occurred. But they’re nonetheless scouring the seabed for the reminiscence card from the cockpit voice recorder which might reveal the crew’s last conversations.
It could possibly be some time but earlier than the households of the victims discover out simply why SJ182 got here down.
“Inspectors have said they will come up with a preliminary report within 30 days of the accident, but conclusions won’t be shared with the public until 12 months later – early next year,” Soejatman mentioned.