Wednesday, March 07, 2007



The Indonesians are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The cheapest way to get around the 17,500 odd islands that make up the country is by using the ferry service (ships plying the Indonesian seas). Now, we all know from the rather distressing frequent news of ferry disasters in Indonesia killing hundreds of people even last month and that is not the greatest way to travel. So, the next best option to travel (the only alternative means of transportation, I may add) is by air of course.

However, the year started off with two accidents/incidents related to Adam Air's Boeing 737's already (Adam Air is a private Airline) and the latest state owned national Carrier Garuda Airways crash of today the 7th March 2007 at Yogyakarta makes it three in three months. So, what does the average Indonesian do? Take chances with the devil or the deep blue sea?

It seems like a lose-lose situation for them. Not to mention the country is going through some very rough times due to frequent earthquakes (including two measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale and even felt here in Singapore by yours truly) and a Tsunami that changed the lives of hundreds of thousands.
What can be done? Firstly, the Indonesian Government must start walking the talk because each time there is an accident (in the air or by sea), they come out with bold statements about the need to reform the system and get things organized in a professional manner. In defense of Garuda, it may be said that they have had a somewhat good safety record and the last accident they had was in 2002 and their maintenance and operations standards are perceived as being better than the rest of the private flock.

Numerous accidents and incidents in aviation have occurred recently in Indonesia. While the jury is still out on the cause of these events, I may remind the reader of the two crashes of Adam Air this year. One reportedly in bad weather and the second one last month of the Aircraft fuselage splitting open and dangling after making a landing! The country's politicians made the usual noise about grounding all the 737's in Indonesia after these events but one could see them plying the skies later on.

Today's Garuda Airways (the National Carrier) crash happened in good weather and the cause may be known sometime later. The distressing thing is that the aircraft continued to burn for a long time after the crash and one could not see any real fire fighting activity to douse the aircraft. One wonders at the type and quantity of equipment they have (or do not have) to handle such situations.
They really need to pull their socks up and do something about improving air safety. It is a serious issue. Permits must not be given to all and sundry for operating decrepit old aircraft that need proper and professional maintenance frequently. Pilot training and standards for training all operations personnel must be improved with emphasis on dealing with any situational emergencies in a professional manner. Operators must be subject to proper audit of documents, upkeep and updating manuals and ensure the manuals are also up to International standards.

I believe that the authorities have a shortage of manpower to deal with the volume of work especially since airlines have mushroomed rapidly in the recent past and the Department of Civil Aviation has not expanded at the same scale to deal with so many operators and aircraft. Only with the use of proper training, proper infrastructure, increase in the number of trained aviation inspectors and proper maintenance practices can they succeed in improving the state of affairs. But, are they up to it? Is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) up to it? Or are they sleeping too, while Indonesians suffer more mishaps? I just don't understand.

This article originally appeared on


Aditya Khurana said...

Hello Captain Anup Murthy.
Well I am sorry for not writing a comment but I have been looking for your email-id to contact you for a very long time. I once read your article on Desicritics. Where you wrote about how you led a team of engineers and pilots from different parts of the world and how you tackled language related issues.
You mentioned that one of the western member of your team said in his report that a part of the aeroplane was broken but it was percieved by the Indian engineer in a different sense.

I really liked that article of yours. You have been an idol for me since then.

I was searching for your email because I wanted to talk to you regarding the entry to the cadet pilot programme started by Singapore International Airlines.
I am from New Delhi and I have submitted my candidature for the authorities perusal.
My name is Aditya Khurana and currently I am giving my final CBSE exams for class 12th. These will be over by 24th of March. I have already done my Indian Class II DGCA medical.

I wanted to ask you if this very fact-that I am still studying, can this go against my selection as a cadet pilot. I wish if you could give me some tips for getting selected into this programme so that soon, in a few years I could meet you and work with you. Only if you dont mind!
Sorry again for writing it where it wasnt supposed to be written. Hope to listen from you soon.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hello Aditya, I sent you a reply on gmail. I will hep in any way that I can. It is nice to know of your interest in aviation. never mind if your questions are not related to the topic that I have put down. All the best with your class 12 exams. please do well.

pingcat said...

So .... Austrailia is saying they came in too fast and ran out of runway.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Yes, Pingcat, thats the latest they are saying about the crash. Would have been a good excuse in bad visibility/rain/IMC but it was a sunny, nice day and visibility was not a factor. This raises the question of proper training procedures and what standards Garuda Indonesia uses for their crew training especialy CRM. I am not sure how true the report on the co-pilot's statement is, considering that he says he asked the Captain to abort the approach as he thought they were coming in too fast and he says that the Captain disagreed with him and they continued to "fight" (assuming verbally only!).

pingcat said...

You know, I was going to ask about training and so forth but I just couldn't figure out a way to do that with any degree of diplomacy and without comming across as arrogant.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Don't worry Pingcat, just ask straight questions! I have seen some of the flight and maintenance standards of operators in some countries around here and it can be quite scary.

Anonymous said...

i am a chinese, usually people in western countries will judge the safty of chinese airlines. but we chinese have definite confidence in our national airlines, especially international. i did some research of Garuda safty record, it sounds not too bad. though , accidents happened more than chinese airlines did, but there is not really a huge difference. i think indonesians need to support Garuda and politicians must be resposible for such a tragedy. from my experience in china, once we had air accidents, we must take out lots of safety procedures to prevent similar tragedies happenning again. but support is really important for Garuda. in the past, chinese air safety was not good at all. but since 1980s, as china is getting richer and richer, we have been purchasing new aircrafts from most best professional aircraft manufacturers around the world. the order is increasing dramatically every yr from 1997. thats the reason the chinese airlines are much safer than before. except quality of on board services, the safety of chinese airlines are not much worse than singapore and malaysian airlines. so i trust chinese airlines and am fond of china eastern, so every time i went back for holiday, chinese airlines are always my first option. there must be one day, indonesians can be confident of their own airlines. but there are still things to go.

Vikram V. said...

What do u make of the Twin Air-India incidents today?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Anonymous. You will perhaps like my previous post "Is China and Japan a part of Asia or not". I have particularly mentioned the size of some Airlines in China and that they operate modern Aircraft.
Thanks for your comments.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Vikram, the twin incidents at Air India and the subsequent sound bites given by the AI management tells me what we have known for many years: that AI operates a fleet of dodgy Aircraft, that are old and prone to constant problem. This affects the dispatch reliability of the Aircraft leading to losses in time and revenue.

simant said...

hello capt.
i also want to ask about the cadet program of singapore airlines
sir, actually i am already flying hv almost 100 hrs and class I medical ..
can this be a reason for rejection coz they r look in 4 fresh pupils.
please reply at my mail reguarding other thngs in relatin to cadet piot program...
My ID id :-