The Indonesian airline problem

10-12 years ago, flying to Jakarta was a quarterly affair. Which means I would go to Jakarta at least 4 times a year mostly for business. And I remember having a business partner who specifically would remind me that we are not to take Garuda or any Indonesian airline. That it would be safer for us to take SIA or other airline even if it means paying a little more or having to adjust for a different flight timing.

I thought back then he was just being paranoid. Looking back, I can now understand why he has his doubts.

Back to the present, a plane crashed into the Java sea on 9 Jan 2021 at 2.40pm (local Indonesian time). That incident killed all 61 locals on board – 50 passengers and 12 crew (7 children and 2 babies were among the passengers including a family of 5) except 1 baby found miraculously alive floating at sea.

Being a Boeing  737-500 made, it means that the flight did not fly with full capacity but nonetheless, we are all truly sorry for the lives lost. Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 now joins an unfortunate list of airline mishaps that will adversely affect the already worrying record of Indonesian national and domestic airlines. The fateful flight never made it to the Pontianak city on Borneo island. In fact it did not even last 5 mins after it took off from Jakarta when it reportedly dropped 10,000 feet out of sudden before disappearing from the radar, presumably to have crashed into the sea. 

Sriwijaya Air is a low-cost airline and Indonesia’s third-largest carrier. It transports more than 950,000 passengers per month from its Jakarta hub to 53 destinations within Indonesia and three regional countries. The CEO in an interview swore the 26 year old plane was in good condition before it was given the permission for take off. 

However,  there are reasons for worry, In June 2018, Sriwijaya Air was removed from the European Union’s list of banned air carriers, 11 years after it was placed on that list. The crash that happened at the start of 2021 now adds on to a long list of airline incidents in the country. Let’s take a look at the last 20 years…

1. In 2018, Lion Air Boeing 737 Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea in Indonesia after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. 

2. In 2015, Indonesian Air Force Lockheed C-130 Hercules crashed in Medan killing 143 personnel.

3. 2014, Indonesian AirAsia Flight 8501 claimed the lives of all 162 people on board after crashing into the Java Sea, while flying from Surabaya to Singapore. 

4. In 2013, Lion Air was involved in two accidents. A Boeing 737 missed the runway on landing and crashed into the sea near Bali, forcing passengers to swim or wade to safety, while another Boeing 737 collided with a cow while touching down at Jalaluddin Airport in Gorontalo on the island of Sulawesi. 

5. In 2007, Adam Air Flight 574 Boeing 737-4Q8 crashed in Makassar Straight killing all 102 passengers on board. 

6. In 2005, Mandala Airlines Flight 91 Boeing 737-230 crashed in Medan killing 149 people. 

7. In 1997, SilkAir Flight 185 Boeing 737 crashed at Musi River killing 104 people. In the same year, Garuda Indonesia Flight 152 Airbus A300 crashed near Medan killing all 234 on board. 

8. In 1991, Indonesian Air Force (A-1324) Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules crashed near East Jakarta killing all 135 on board.

With all of the above, safety is now a definite concern. In 2007, the European Union banned all 51 Indonesian airlines from its airspace after a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the runway in Yogyakarta in March and burst into flames, killing 21 people on board

But with 270 million population in the world’s largest archipelago, the airline as the primary mode of transportation linking hundreds of cities will continue to remain buoyant. 

At time of writing this, the location of the black box has been identified and several body parts and debris have been found.

References/Sources: and, 

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