Lion Air Crash Brings Attention to Growth, Safety

10 November, 2018

The crash of a Lion Air plane last month has brought attention to the airline's safety record as well as airline industry growth in Indonesia.

All 189 passengers and crew members were killed in the crash of flight JT 610. The plane crashed into the sea not long after takeoff from the Jakarta airport. Just before the crash, the pilot asked to return to the airport.

An accident investigator and a flight tracking website reported that the aircraft had some problems on its previous flight. Its airspeed readings were not dependable.

On Monday, investigators said the flight data recorder from the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane showed its airspeed indicator had been damaged during its final four flights.

Boeing said on Wednesday it had sent a message to airlines reminding pilots about procedures for dealing with incorrect data from sensors. The United States Federal Aviation Administration also issued an order calling for changes on how pilots should react in such a situation.

Rescuers use crane to retrieve part of the landing gears of the crashed Lion Air jet from the sea floor in the waters of Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.
Rescuers use crane to retrieve part of the landing gears of the crashed Lion Air jet from the sea floor in the waters of Tanjung Karawang, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.

Demand for air travel

The Lion Air crash demonstrates some of the difficulties that carriers in developing countries face. They must keep up with demand for air travel, while also aiming for established safety rules.

With 129 million passengers in 2017, Indonesia is the world's 10th-largest aviation market. It is expected to only continue growing.

In the past 10 years, the numbers of domestic passengers there have grown three times higher, thanks to a combination of low ticket prices and increased personal incomes.

The United Nations aviation agency reported the growth has been met with an air-accident rate that was two times the worldwide average in 2017. The accident rate in Indonesia is also higher than its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesian pilots are permitted to fly up to 110 hours each month. Many countries set the limit at 100 hours. Boeing reported last year that, around the world, a total of seven commercial planes had been damaged beyond repair. Two were in Indonesia. Neither was a Lion Air plane, however.

Lion Air has expanded quickly since it started flying in 2000.

The privately owned carrier captured more than half of Indonesia's domestic market. It started offering flights to Thailand and Malaysia.

It now flies more passengers than the national carrier Garuda Indonesia.

Safety standards

In April 2013, a Lion Air Boeing 737 missed the runway on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in bad weather. It went into the sea and crashed on the rocks. All 108 on board survived. But a 2014 report by Indonesia's air crash investigators said the 24-year-old co-pilot had failed to follow the "basic principles of jet aircraft flying."

In 2007, the European Union (EU) barred all 100 of Indonesia's airlines from flying to its airports. Most of the country's airlines are very small.

The ban was lifted in 2009 for the national carrier Garuda Indonesia. The EU removed Lion Air from the ban in 2016. The rest of the airlines all came off the list in June of this year.

Chappy Hakim is a former air force chief of staff and advisor to the Indonesian transport ministry. He told Reuters that he avoided flying with Lion Air or other Indonesian airlines. He only flies Garuda, which has not had a deadly crash since 2007.

"I know Garuda," he said. "The other airlines, I don't believe they do the maintenance and training properly."

Lion Air Managing Director Daniel Putut disputed any question in connection to the carrier's safety culture. He said Lion Air followed the plane's usual maintenance.

The Indonesian aviation authority did not answer Reuters' requests for comment about Lion Air's safety record.

FILE - A Citilink Airbus A320 approaches for a landing at Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta June 14, 2013.
FILE - A Citilink Airbus A320 approaches for a landing at Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta June 14, 2013.

Developing a safety culture

Putut, a former pilot, told Reuters that Lion Air had worked hard to develop a safety culture after the Bali crash in 2013. He said thousands of Lion Air flights had taken off and landed without serious problems until last month.

Frank Caron served as Lion Air's safety manager from 2009 to 2011. He said he was troubled at that time by what he called the airline's attitude about safety. For example, after the 2013 Bali crash, Lion Air co-founder Rusdi Kirana told local media asking about the airline's safety record, "If we are seen to have many accidents, it's because of our frequency of flights."

After the Bali crash, investigators recommended that Lion Air should make sure that "all pilots must be competent in hand-flying." They also suggested teaching correct coordination for pilots and co-pilots. They also urged the aviation authority to make sure all of the country's carriers did the same.

Putut said Lion Air fully accepted those recommendations.

I'm Dorothy Gundy.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters news reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

indicator - n. a device that shows a measurement

aviation - n. the business of flying

domestic - adj. of or relating to your own country

income - n. money that is earned from work or investment

principle - n. a basic truth

maintenance - n. the act of keeping equipment in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc.

frequency - n. the number of times that something happens during a particular period

competent - adj. having the necessary ability or skill

coordination - n. the process of organizing people or groups so that they work together properly and well