Editorial: Safe flight, no plight
Our deepest sympathy goes to the families and loved ones of those who perished in Thursday’s plane crash. The fatal crash further extended the list of aviation accidents in Indonesia and should therefore remind all aviation stakeholders of the need to beef up safety measures, whatever the cause of this latest disaster.
At least 11 people were killed, including all seven crew members, when the Air Force’s Fokker F-27 smashed into the Air Force housing complex near Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force base in East Jakarta following a routine flight. The accident came just over one month after a Sukhoi Superjet 100 crashed into Mt. Salak in Bogor, West Java and claimed the lives of all 45 people on board.
Public controversy, if not discourse, about safety rules that will immediately follow the Fokker crash is something like a basic instinct, given not only the country’s generally poor awareness of safety standards, particularly in the transportation sector, but also the fact that the particular aircraft had operated since 1977 and the plane maker discontinued production of this type in 1987.
Air Force officials say the plane was airworthy and well maintained prior to take-off on Thursday, but only after the investigation team has completed its job and unveils the results of the probe will such claims be corroborated and accepted. A witness said the plane was flying too low and lost control before it fell onto the housing complex.
The Air Force investigators may not disclose all the facts they find on the ground for security reasons, but that should not give them an excuse for deliberately covering up what caused the tragedy. Transparency is a must only because the plane was a state asset procured by taxpayers’ money.
Without transparency, speculation will be rife and may spread falsehoods or even conspiracy theories that are difficult to verify but seem to make sense because the public has never been informed of the truth. In the absence of transparency, the public and especially families of the victims will be left guessing and denied their right to know as has happened in many previous plane crashes that have plagued the country.
That the Air Force plane hit a housing complex and killed people on the ground was an unusual occurrence, but nobody knows when such a nightmarish accident might recur in the future.
Thursday’s crash is the second of its kind since a Mandala Boeing 737-200 jet crashed into a densely populated suburb in the North Sumatra capital of Medan in 2005, killing 153 people, including 49 on the ground.
These two fatal accidents suggest that policymakers need to set new safety standards to protect people on the ground from possible plane crashes. These may include a minimum distance separating an airport or airbase from residential areas. The minimum distance would also reduce the impact of aviation activities on people’s health, such as from noise pollution.
If we are to gain anything from the tragedy and prevent such things recurring in the future we need to learn how to improve aviation safety standards.