Ensuring Air Traffic Safety
Monday, 21 May, 2012 | 21:25 WIB
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Complaints from foreign pilots that flying above Indonesia is a hellish experience may be exaggerated. However, these pilots often encounter communication difficulties. In fact, Indonesian infrastructure and air traffic control (ATC) officers are far from adequate. Therefore, the government must immediately improve this vital infrastructure in order to prevent fatalities.
In addition to improving infrastructure and human resources, the ATC as an institution also needs to be restructured to comply with Law No. 1/2009 on Aviation. The law’s Article 271 stipulates that the government must establish a navigational institution for aviation. Currently, the ATC, which plays an important role in providing assistance for aircraft traffic, works under the management of state-owned enterprise Angkasa Pura I and II.
The integration of all ATC is crucial for two reasons. Firstly, the centralized organizational system cannot accommodate equipment standardization. Performance control will also be better monitored with such a system. Secondly, in compliance with the Law on Aviation, a navigational institution must not be motivated by profit. The ATC’s duties are to serve all flights and ensure that flights receive sound guidance. Such obligation cannot be executed in a profit-seeking spirit because the economic principle that emphasizes efficiency may be detrimental to flight safety.
The principle of efficiency may also be the cause for the limited infrastructure and human resources in Indonesia’s ATC. Most of the radar and navigational systems currently in use were manufactured in 1985, so they are too old and too unreliable for the current aviation industry. In Java, a main airport does not even have a navigational system. In the airport, ATC officers rely on radio communication with pilots.
The number of navigators is also limited. During peak hours at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, for instance, a navigator must assist 15 to 20 aircraft simultaneously when the ideal number should be between 6 and 10. Such pressure increases the possibility of error in aircraft traffic navigation.
However, the state of ATC is not immediately to blame for the recent Sukhoi tragedy, which occurred on Wednesday. There is no single cause for crash so far. The causes will be revealed after the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is completed. However, the tragedy has shifted public interest to an aspect that did not receive much attention before – the weak performance of Indonesia’s air traffic control.
Without a major upgrade, such weaknesses can increase the risk or even cause fatal accidents. An upgrade is crucial because civil aviation in Indonesia is one of the busiest in ASEAN. It is time for the government to take a different approach to ATC, not as a supporting factor in the aviation industry but as a main factor together with aircraft and pilot reliability.
ANOTHER INDEX :