Indonesian Airlines Draw More Scrutiny in Wake of Latest Crash

 - November 7, 2018, 11:27 AM

Notwithstanding Wednesday’s revelations that investigators have identified a faulty angle-of-attack sensor in the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed into the Java Sea on October 29, the accident had already intensified scrutiny of Indonesia’s aviation safety practices, resulting in calls for an audit of all the country’s airlines.

Eddy Wijaya, a senior official at the National Transportation Safety Committee (NTSC) of the Ministry of Transport in Jakarta, called the crash of the two-month-old aircraft an eye-opener for the authorities. The government plans to start conducting a resulting planned audit in December.

According to Wijaya the audit will include safety checks, standard operating procedures, policies, and qualification of pilots and engineers including the validity of their licenses.

“Action will be taken against any airline with safety oversights,” Wijaya promised.

A total of 20 airlines including cargo carriers and charters operate across the country. The number stands in stark contrast to the 66 airlines operating in 2007, before the Civil Authority of Indonesia (CAAI) came down hard on carriers with safety oversights and ordered airlines with fewer than five aircraft to merge while closing several others.

The December audit will categorize airlines under three tiers. Tier 1 means the airlines show no problems, Tier 2 indicates that the carriers exhibit oversights that need correcting, and a Tier 3 rating could result in the suspension of an airline’s air operating certificate (AOC) due to serious oversights.

Widjaya claimed that audits on airlines happen from time to time, adding that authorities will spare no airline if they find oversights. The CAAI has in the past revoked the AOC of several airlines, including Adam Air and Jatayu Airlines, due to serious safety concerns.

The NTSC has investigated Jakarta-based Lion Air on 137 occasions for serious incidents from 2012 to 2017. On the defect the Lion Air 737 Max 8 had exhibited the day before the fateful flight, NTSC head Soerjanto Jiahono said mechanics fixed the problem and Lion Air management certified the airplane airworthy before it departed from Jakarta on October 29. Indonesian authorities reported that mechanics in Bali had changed one of the airplane’s angle of attack sensors the day before the crash, after the pilots of the same airplane the night before experienced deviations in their indications.

The crash is the second involving an Indonesian airline since December 2015, when an AirAsia Indonesia Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea during a flight from Surabaya to Singapore. Indonesia ranks as one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.  

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has long urged Indonesia to mandate the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) for all Indonesian carriers. The world body has also encouraged mandating of IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) at Indonesian airports to manage better safety on the ground.