New Airline Entrants Could Jeopardize Region’s Safety Record
The development of Indonesia’s new middle class, and their penchant for travel has triggered the establishment of dozens of new air carriers, which has regional safety experts concerned. A spate of airline accidents in 2007 led to a thorough industry review by the government after the EU banned all Indonesia carriers for two years.
The Associated Press reports that Indonesia is struggling to expand its aviation infrastructure to keep up with the nearly 20 percent annual growth rate. In demand are qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and updated airport safety technology. The addition of so many new airlines is presenting a challenge for the government to monitor to assure safety compliance. Statistics compiled by the Aviation Safety Network show that small passenger and cargo carriers plus military aircraft have kept the frequency of crashes to about once every two months.
"Infrastructure hasn't kept pace with the growth of the airlines," said Shukor Yusof, an aviation analyst in Singapore for Standard & Poors. He said the government needs to "spend a vast amount of money" to expand safety monitoring for the new carriers and invest in airport runways and technology. The relative ease with which new airlines can be established, though tightened in recent years, has been a concern in the aviation community for years. Wednesday’s loss of a Sukhoi Superjet highlights the rapid expansion. The aircraft was packed with local airline representatives that Sukhoi hoped would purchase the aircraft.
Indonesia has added 36 new passenger and cargo airlines in the past five years, bringing the total to 86. The number of air passengers in Indonesia jumped by 10 million in a year to 53 million in 2010, according to the government statistics agency, and the upward trend continued in 2011.