Indonesia angered as nation's airlines all remain banned in EU airspace

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

This B737-400 is comparable to the aircraft involved in all the accidents and incidents mentioned in this story. Adam Air is currently grounded and may have its license permanently revoked.
Image: Adrian Pingstone.

Indonesia has been angered by a decision of the European Union to leave all 51 of the nation's air carriers on the list of air carriers banned in the EU. State-owned flag carrier Garuda Indonesia had hoped to begin flights to Europe imminently and has ordered ten new jetliners to serve routes there and to the United States.

Transport ministry spokesperson Bambang Ervan said "This seems like an unfair punishment for Indonesia. The EU is not a sovereign country and is not a member of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation). But we do respect the EU and its decision, and demand the same from the EU."

The ban was imposed after a string of accidents, of which the three most important were Adam Air Flight 574, a 102-fatality accident in which a Boeing 737-43Q plunged into the ocean after pilots distracted by instrument failure failed to maintain control, Adam Air Flight 172, in which another B737 snapped in half after a hard landing and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, in which a third B737 attempted landing at extreme speed and overshot the runway, killing 21.

Adam Air had also almost suffered a B737 crash the previous year, 2006, after a similar navigational instrument failure to that on Flight 574 caused the airliner to become lost for several hours, eventually performing an emergency landing hundreds of kilometres from its intended destination. Indonesia grounded the carrier in March after another accident in which a B737 overshot a runway. The carrier is also in severe financial difficulties and may soon be permanently shut down.

Meanwhile, the pilot of Garuda 200 has been charged over the accident, sparking intense controversy.

The EU reviewed the ban this week, but ruled that those responsible "have still to demonstrate that they have completed the corrective actions" needed to lift the ban. It is a blow to Indonesia, who had promised "fast-track" help to Garuda, Mandala Airlines, Premiair and Airfast to raise their safety to levels acceptable to the EU.