JAKARTA: Indonesia must revamp its air transport sector and shut down airlines that ignore safety regulations, a team of experts said on Thursday, following a string of deadly accidents in recent months.
Air travel in Indonesia, a country of more than 17,000 islands, has grown substantially since the liberalization of the airline industry that has triggered price wars among airlines.
The rapid growth has raised questions over whether safety has been compromised and if the infrastructure and personnel can cope with the increase in air traffic.
The team, commissioned by the government after a passenger jet with 102 people on board disappeared in January, said safety standards had deteriorated since the deregulation of the aviation sector in the late 1990s.
The team led by former Air Force commander Chappy Hakim called for a comprehensive reorganization of air transport regulating bodies, stressing the need to “put the right man in the right place.” It said that licences issued by regulators must be based on rules and regulations, not on negotiations and trade-offs.
The state Antara news agency quoted Hakim as saying that the practice of bribing regulators to get operating licences was believed to have existed since the aviation industry was deregulated.
Last week, a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the runway in the cultural capital of Yogyakarta and burst into flames, killing 21 people including five Australians. Investigators are questioning the pilots and cabin crew, if the disaster was due to human error.
Experts urged the government to improve training of pilots and other aviation personnel, build better facilities at airports and ensure availability of aircraft spare parts.
The team also said the National Transport Safety Board should become an independent body answerable to the president, instead of being placed under the transport ministry.