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Unfortunate Coincidence for Indonesian Aviation

Lion Crashes in Batam as EU Aviation Safety Auditors Arrive to Reconsider European Blacklisting of Indonesian Aircraft.

(2/28/2009) On the very same day that an aviation safety team from the European Union arrived in Jakarta to review whether it is finally time to lift the blacklisting of Indonesian registered aircraft from flying over EU airspace a Lion Air MD-90 performed a crash-landing on Batam island, minus it nose gear wheel.

Fortunately, there were no injuries in the Batam incident which must have created a somewhat non-conducive atmosphere for Indonesian aviation officials desperately trying to persuade auditors that they could trust Indonesian aviators and their aircraft.

The case for Indonesia was also not helped by the ill-considered comments of Indonesia's Director General of Air Transportation, Budi Suyitno, who analyzed the Batam mishap for the press by saying: "It is an old plane that could have hidden defects which inspectors couldn't identify. The older the plane, the more the problems. The risk is always there and for the Lion Air incident, the problem was that one of the levers for the wheel hatch was broken, which caused the plane's forward landing gear to stick." The landing gear lever, he said, "is at a place where it is difficult to find by the inspectors."

Suyitno's comments could hardly be considered helpful in encouraging EU auditors to lift the flight ban in place since June 2007. In the past, EU auditors have given high marks to a number of Indonesian carriers for the safety and security procedures now put in place but continue to question the efficacy of the government's aviation regulatory authority to manage a safety system.