Re: Indon Air Crash
Dec 2, 2004
LION AIR CRASH
Budget carriers give safety assurance
Operators insist that cheaper fares do not mean lower safety standards
By Karamjit Kaur, Transport Correspondent
AFTER two runway accidents involving budget airlines in recent weeks, low-cost carriers have moved quickly to dispel any notion that cut-price fares equal compromised safety.
Following Tuesday's Lion Air crash in Java that killed 26 people and an incident on Nov 7 when an AirAsia plane skidded off a runway in Kota Kinabalu during heavy rain, the safety of budget carriers has inevitably come under scrutiny.
Valuair and Tiger Airways - Singapore's two budget airlines - have both maintained that safety is a top priority.
Valuair's chief executive officer Sim Kay Wee said: 'Without a safety culture, one should not even think about operating an airline.'
Tiger's chief executive officer Patrick Gan cited an incident in October when one of the airline's two planes was grounded in Bangkok due to an electrical fault.
He said: 'We could have solved the problem temporarily by moving some of the parts around, but I did not want the aircraft to take off until the affected part was replaced with a spare part, which had to be flown in.
'Under no circumstances do we compromise on safety.'
Mr Con Korfiatis, the chief operating officer of Jetstar Asia, a budget airline scheduled to begin operating out of Singapore this month, said: 'The true savings come from flying more hours in a day, thereby using the aircraft more effectively.
'Maintenance and crew-training procedures are never compromised.'
Quicker turnarounds between flights do not necessarily mean that maintenance crews are spending less time checking aircraft, according to aviation experts.
Mr Peter Harbison, the managing director of the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said extensive aircraft checks are not carried out between flights anyway.
Airline safety is also not necessarily affected by the age of the fleet.
The Lion Air plane involved in Tuesday's crash was 24 years old.
Valuair, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia all operate brand new planes, while the average age of an AirAsia aircraft is 16 years.
But AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes pointed out that an aircraft's safety or efficiency is not measured by its age but by how well it is maintained.
He said that AirAsia is regulated by the Department of Civil Aviation of Mal- aysia, which adheres to international standards. The airline's planes are maintained by Singapore Technologies Aerospace.
An airline's wealth may be a factor, but even major airlines have recently been trimming their expenses.
Mr Anthony Concil, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents more than 280 full-service airlines, said: 'The last three to four years, airlines have been cutting costs to stay lean and efficient.
'But this has not been at the expense of safety.'
Last year, a record low of 27 fatal accidents, involving 702 deaths, occurred worldwide, compared with the 1,022 people who were killed in 40 fatal airline accidents in 2002.
Records also show that since 1970, many of the major United States-based carriers, including Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines, have had fatal accidents, while low-cost carriers such as JetBlue and Southwest Airlines have maintained clean records.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) requires all airlines to meet various standards before they are given an operating licence.
A CAAS spokesman said regular safety inspections and audits are carried out even after licences are issued.
THE TWO MISHAPS
* On Nov 7, an AirAsia Boeing B737-300 aircraft carrying 110 passengers skidded off the runway at Kota Kinabalu's international airport on landing and ended up with its nose wheel embedded in the soft soil. A five-year-old girl sprained her wrist and two other passengers suffered minor injuries.
* On Tuesday, a 24-year-old Lion Air MD-82 plane with 153 passengers and crew on board skidded off the runway at the Adi Sumarmo airport in Solo, central Indonesia, while landing in heavy rain. The aircraft broke into two on the tarmac, killing 26 people. One Singaporean woman who fractured her ribs, legs and an arm is in stable condition.
What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple.
Whether you are willing to do it, that's another matter.
- Peter F. Drucker