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Everyone, All Together Now, Take a Deep Breath

Editorial: Both Indonesian and European Officials Need to Raise Their Game in the Quest to Achieve a Safe Aviation Policy.


Bali News:
Click Image to Enlarge

(7/10/2007)

The Indonesian tourism industry suffered another body blow when the EU recently announced its intention to blacklist all Indonesian air carriers; branding the 51 commercial airlines operating in Indonesia as "unsafe" in a single stroke of a tar brush.

Are Indonesian Airlines Really Unsafe?

That a number of Indonesian airlines are falling short of the mark in safety management is not in dispute as evidenced by a rash of recent tragic mishaps and a remarkably courageous and damning public report reviewing the entire industry issued in March by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation.

However, whether or not the entire Indonesian aviation industry is truly unsafe, as claimed by the EU, is a much more difficult question to answer if we pause to consider the following:

• Despite recent mishaps, Indonesian airlines, including Garuda, do not hold the dubious distinction of causing a record number of air fatalities. A visit to a website tracking airline fatalities [Airline Crash Fatalities] show a large number of other international air carriers have much more lethal histories, including American Airlines, China Airlines, Air India, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Pan Am, Saudi Arabia Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines.

• Other statistics that explore fatalities per flown air mile would similarly show that, on a whole, Indonesian airlines do not merit being singled out as anything approaching cavalier on matters of aviation safety.

• The far-reaching decision to generalize and label all Indonesian carriers as "unsafe" apparently was done by the "Eurocrats" in Brussels at a distance without the aid of a direct audit. Jean Breteche, the EU Ambassador to Jakarta, admitted as much in the Jakarta Post this week, saying that the decision to impose "blacklisting" was done after the Indonesian aviation authorities failed to respond to two letters inviting them to air consultations. This statement suggests that the current aviation warning has more to do with pique than any concrete information on the true status of Indonesian aviation.

Garuda Indonesia operates in conformance with International Aviation Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) standards set forth by the EU's very own International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). For the EU to include Garuda in their current "blacklisting" while at the same time endorsing its IOSA certification is confusing, at best.

While we hope cooler minds will triumph in current discussions in Jakarta seeking retaliatory measure against the EU, it is understandable if, in some quarters, the EU decision is viewed with suspicion and seen as both imperialistic and heavy handed. Given the fact that the decision to "blacklist" Indonesian aviation was made without consultation with the Indonesian authorities, we wonder if a final public warning calling for more data before a stated deadline would not have been a more prudent move.

Similarly, statements by ICAO officials attending a conference in Bali this week have also questioned the wisdom of the "blacklisting", terming the EU decision a misunderstanding.

Let's All Take a Deep Breath

Given the current situation, a simple apology from the EU might be in order suggesting their recent statements were premature and unfounded. Such an apology could be paired with a call for an urgent joint review of aviation practice and policy in order to truly determine the state of aviation safety in Indonesia. Such a measured approach would best serve the EU, Indonesia and the flying public.

In retrospect, if there is a bright side to the current imbroglio, it is the refreshing openness with which the Indonesia officials have greeted the banning announcement; offering open access to their national aviation system to both inspectors and safety consultants. In light of this, the proper response from the EU would be an eager acceptance to work with the Indonesians on safety management issues in order to truly guarantee and enhance the safety of their citizens flying in Indonesia's air space. The Indonesian tourism industry suffered another body blow when the EU recently announced its intention to blacklist all Indonesian air carriers; branding the 51 commercial airlines operating in Indonesia as "unsafe" in a single stroke of a tar brush.

Are Indonesian Airlines Really Unsafe?

That a number of Indonesian airlines are falling short of the mark in safety management is not in dispute as evidenced by a rash of recent tragic mishaps and a remarkably courageous and damning public report reviewing the entire industry issued in March by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation.

However, whether or not the entire Indonesian aviation industry is truly unsafe, as claimed by the EU, is a much more difficult question to answer if we pause to consider the following:

• Despite recent mishaps, Indonesian airlines, including Garuda, do not hold the dubious distinction of causing a record number of air fatalities. A visit to a website tracking airline fatalities [Airline Crash Fatalities] show a large number of other international air carriers have much more lethal histories, including American Airlines, China Airlines, Air India, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Pan Am, Saudi Arabia Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines.

• Other statistics that explore fatalities per flown air mile would similarly show that, on a whole, Indonesian airlines do not merit being singled out as anything approaching cavalier on matters of aviation safety.

• The far-reaching decision to generalize and label all Indonesian carriers as "unsafe" apparently was done by the "Eurocrats" in Brussels at a distance without the aid of a direct audit. Jean Breteche, the EU Ambassador to Jakarta, admitted as much in the Jakarta Post this week, saying that the decision to impose "blacklisting" was done after the Indonesian aviation authorities failed to respond to two letters inviting them to air consultation. This statement suggests that the current aviation warning has more to do with pique than any concrete information on the true status of Indonesian aviation.

Garuda Indonesia operates in conformance with International Aviation Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) standards set by the United Nation's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). For the Garuda to be considered to meet UN standards on one hand and to fall short of the EU's requirements is confusing, at best.

While we hope cooler minds will triumph in current discussions in Jakarta seeking retaliatory measure against the EU, it is understandable if, in some quarters, the EU decision is viewed with suspicion and seen as both imperialistic and heavy handed. Given the fact that the decision to "blacklist" Indonesian aviation was made without consultation with the Indonesian authorities, we wonder if a final public warning calling more data before a stated deadline would not have been a more prudent move.

Similarly, statements by ICAO officials attending a conference in Bali this week have also questioned the wisdom of the "blacklisting", terming the EU decision a misunderstanding.

Let's All Take a Deep Breath

Given the current situation, a simple apology from the EU might be in order suggesting their recent statements were premature and unfounded. Such an apology could be paired with a call for an urgent joint review of aviation practice and policy in order to truly determine the state of aviation safety in I


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