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After another disaster: is Indonesia prone to plane crashes?

The crash of an airplane in Indonesia, killing more than 60 people, has once again highlighted the safety of the country's aviation industry. Shortly after take-off on Saturday, the Boeing 737-500 of the airline Sriwijaya Air crashed into the Java Sea. The plane's destination was Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan Province on Borneo, 90 minutes away by flight.

More crashes than any other country

Indonesia's record of aviation accidents is one of the worst in Asia; there have been more civil aviation accidents since 1945 than in any other country in the region. In the past, accidents were attributed to inadequate pilot training, technical errors or those in air surveillance and traffic control - or poor maintenance of fleets.

While experts speak of many improvements in recent years, the recent crash begs the question of how the country is actually doing in this area.

Over 1300 deaths from aviation since 1945

The inadequate safety of Indonesian aviation has economic, social and geographic reasons. In the early years of the Indonesian aviation boom after the resignation of the dictatorial ruling President Suharto, the country's economy opened up - the industry developed largely free of regulation and supervision. Low-cost providers flooded the market. This made traveling by air affordable in the island nation, which still lacks efficient and safe transport infrastructure in some regions.

According to data from the Aviation Safety Network, which lists aviation incidents in a database, there have been a total of 104 civil aircraft accidents and more than 1,300 deaths since 1945, which led to the classification as the most dangerous flight destination in Asia. The USA did not allow Indonesian airlines in the domestic market between 2007 and 2016 and pointed to glaring deficiencies; a similar ban also existed in the EU for years.

There are improvements in security

There was definitely progress. Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com, told the AP news agency that the confrontation with the industry has increased significantly, control and supervision have been strengthened. There are more frequent inspections, maintenance facilities are more strictly regulated, and pilot training has also been improved, according to Thomas. In 2016, the US Federal Aviation Authority certified Indonesia as meeting the safety standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Possible reasons for the latest crash

It is too early to make a comprehensive assessment. Experts believe a number of causes are possible: human errors, the condition of the 26-year-old aircraft, bad weather conditions in the capital Jakarta, from where the Boeing took off. The tracking service Flightradar 24 announced on Twitter that flight SJ182 had lost more than 3000 meters in less than a minute four minutes after take-off.

According to the airline, the aircraft, which was previously in the service of American airlines, was roadworthy. It had already completed a flight on the day of its disappearance. Whether the plane actually had no defects is part of an ongoing investigation.

Hardly any eyewitnesses to the crash due to bad weather conditions

Fishermen near the crash site said they heard an explosion and then saw wreckage and oil in the water. Because heavy rains made visibility difficult, the testimony was not extensive. Sriwijaya Air does not have a long history of major disasters. However, in 2008 a farmer died when a plane went off the runway.

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