“Aviation Court” – urgently needed for air safety

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The results of KNKT investigation should be enough to serve as a basis for follow-up actions such as establishing an Aviation Court for corrective action purposes. (Rayi Gigih)

IO – The Saturday, 9 January 2021 crash of Sriwijaya Air SJ-182 in the Seribu Islands, operating on the Jakarta-Pontianak route, is the latest in a long list of Indonesian air transport tragedies. In terms of fatalities, it is the third-biggest flight incident within the past six years, after the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crash in October 2018 and the AirAsia Indonesia Airbus A320 crash in December 2014.

Much speculation on the cause of the accident has arisen. In fact, quite a few people have drawn parallels between the SJ-182 incident with the 2014 Air Asia QZ 8501 disaster. Air Power Indonesia Study Center’s aviation observer, Air Chief Marshal (Ret.) Chappy Hakim, declares that all suspicions and analyses so far are merely speculation. “I would prefer to wait for the National Commission of Transportation Safety (Komisi Nasional Keselamatan Transportasi – “KNKT”) official statement. As the accident was a total loss, with zero survival, we will never know what really happened until the KNKT issues the final report on its investigation,” he said. “But in any case, I hope that the accident is investigated thoroughly. After all, other countries will use the results of the investigation to prevent accidents from the same causes in the same condition in their own flights.”

Chappy believes that it is high time for the Government to establish an Aviation Court. “The results of the KNKT investigation should be sufficient to serve as a basis for follow-up actions, such as establishing an Aviation Court for corrective action purposes, to upgrade our aviation network. As of this writing this institution remains only a concept, even though Law No. 1 concerning Aviation stipulates its establishment has since 2009. If investigations of accidents end with KNKT, similar errors might occur again, because people and companies clearly see there are no sanctions or consequences,” he said.

Neglecting Safety

Aviation Safety Network data reveals that there were at least 46 air accidents in Indonesia within the past decade.” “This translates into the fact that Indonesia is the country with the worst aerial safety in the world – even worse than notorious ones like Russia, Iran, and Pakistan. In fact, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actually banned Indonesian airlines from operating there, from 2007-2016, precisely because of this history of flight risk! The European Union implemented exactly the same prohibition for the exact same reason between 2007-2018! Actually, Indonesian aviation has improved greatly in the past few years. In fact, the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) praised us in 2018. However, establishing a culture of safety in Indonesia is no small challenge, as our national mindset views accidents as “unavoidable” as they are “fated”.

On the other hand, there is also a lot to be desired in terms of management of Indonesian airlines. As Chappy succinctly states, flight safety is reflected in the performance of the relevant airline. “If we talk about the success of managing an airline, at the end of the day good performance means good flight safety,” he said. “Indonesia is in dire need of improving the quality of its civil flight management. We need to update our regulations to match international standards. Furthermore, we do not have sufficient inspectors in our Ministry of Transportation as the national aviation authority that should regulate and monitor the sector. I believe personally believe that the Sriwijaya Air accident was caused by multiple neglects on our part.”

Self-Maintenance

Another aviation observer, Gerry Soejatman, stated that there are three factors that generally cause an airplane to suffer from a fatal accident: Crew performance, extreme weather, and technical issues. “There are many possibilities on what actually occurred. There is also a high possibility of the plane itself suffering from engine corrosion from being unused for months because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Even leaving a plane alone for seven consecutive days is enough to corrode the engines.”

Sriwijaya planes are among those

that remained idle during the pandemic. Even worse, Garuda Maintenance Facility stopped serving Sriwijaya Air since 2019 because of a service fee debt totaling IDR 800 billion. Therefore, Sriwijaya’s armada has been cared for by their own mechanics with limited spare parts. Thanks to this restriction, the company’s Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) level is 4A (“Occasional Risk”). “So we can safely ask, “Do they have enough funds for maintenance or not?” “Is their routine maintenance since their service agreement ended remains good nor not?” These are the things that KNKT will be looking into,” Gerry said.

FlightRadar24 reported that the SJ182 plane is a classic Boeing 737-500 plane with the registration number PKCLC (MSN 27323). Its first flight was in May 1994. In other words, the plane is already 26 years old. “The information that we have states that the plane is in good condition. Earlier, it has just completed a return flight circle from Pangkal Pinang, which is the other route it generally flies to Pontianak. Maintenance reports also shows smooth flight,” said Sriwijaya Air President Director Jeff Jauwena in a press conference held on Saturday (09/01/2021). “The 30-minute delay in the Sriwijaya Air SJ-182 takeoff was not caused by engine trouble, but because of heavy rains.

Sriwijaya Air Spokeswoman Theodora Erika further confirms that there has been no difference in the level of airplane maintenance and care from the time before and after the pandemic. KNKT  Spokesman  Indriantono stated that the Agency is still collecting information on the maintenance of the SJ-182 to be matched with the data on the unlucky plane’s Flight Data Recorder (“FDR”) and Voice Data Recorder (“VDR”). Therefore, KNKT will soon investigate a number of people, including mechanics who serviced the SJ182 plane and the pilots who last flew it. “We want to check whether spare parts have been replaced, and which ones, if any. Then whether or not there are any complaints from the previous pilots. Afterwards, we will match up with the FDR: Are there any damaged spare parts, has any spare parts been replaced?” he said.

The Sriwijaya aircraft in the accident” “had 6 active crew. It was transporting 40 adult passengers, 7 children, and 3 babies. The Head of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Badan Search and Rescue Nasional – “Basarnas”), Air Marshal Bagus Puruhito, stated that the agency has received 19 body bags containing the pieces of the victims’ bodies from the SAR team that has been searching in the waters of Seribu Islands up to Monday (11/01/2021) afternoon. “Our Disaster Victim Identification (“DVI”) division is currently processing these unfortunate victims,” Bagus stated at JICT Terminal, Jakarta, on the same day.

The passenger list of the Sriwijaya Air SJ-182 shows that the wife and both children of the Supadio Pontianak Airport’s Head of the Logistics Division, Tech. Col. Ahmad Khaidir, are also victims of the crash. Head of the Air Force’s Information Office, Air Commodore Indan Gilang Buldansyah, stated that Tech. Col. Ahmad Khaidir’s family in the flight were his wife, Rahmania Ekananda (passenger in seat 16 A), and his daughters, Fazila Ammara (age unknown, passenger in seat 16 D), and Fatima Ashalina (2.5 y.o., passenger in seat 16 C).” “The pilot flying the crashed airplane was a retired Air Force pilot. “Capt. Afwan was an Air Force pilot in 19871998, a former member of Air Squadron 4 and Academic Squadron 31. He was an alumnus of IDP IV graduating in 1987,” Gilang said.

The Indonesian Consumers’ Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia – “YLKI”) states that the Sriwijaya Air accident is a major violation of consumer rights. YLKI’s Daily Management Chairman Tulus Abadi sincerely requests the Minister of Transportation and KNKT to completely unravel the cause of the accident. YLKI further requests that the Ministry provide stricter monitoring of all airlines in order to ensure the overall safety of flights and protect the consumers of flight services’ right to a safe and comfortable flight.

Law  No.  8  of  1999  concerning Consumer Protection considers the accident as the worst violation of the rights of flight service consumers. As passengers, these consumers have the right of guaranteed safety, security, and comfort during their flight. Therefore, YLKI requests that the Management of Sriwijaya Air and the” “Ministry of Transportation to provide full reparation of the civil rights of the victims, both material and immaterial rights. “As guaranteed in the Consumer Protection Law, passengers as consumers (or their families) have the right to be compensated and to receive damages when they sustain losses as they use a specific goods and/or services, in this case a flight service,” Tulus said.

The Management of PT Jasa Raharja (Persero) confirms that they will compensate the victims’ families. PT Jasa Raharja (Persero)’s President Director Budi Rahardjo Slamet stated that the amount stipulated by the Minister of Finance Regulation No. 15 and 16 of 2017 for fatal victims in land, marine, and air accidents is IDR 50 million for each victim. Burial compensation for each victim without heirs is IDR 4 million each, with supplementary reimbursement of ambulance costs at IDR 500,000.00 each. The Registration of Minister of Transportation No. 77 of 2011 concerning the Responsibilities of Air Transportation Businesses states that fatal victims of aviation accidents will be compensated at IDR 1.25 billion each.”