Crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 Spotlights Indonesia’s Poor Air Safety Record

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When a team of United Nations auditors visited Jakarta in May to rate the country’s aviation safety, they came to a troubling conclusion: Indonesia was well below the global average in every category, and scored just 61 percent in airworthiness.

The audit reinforced the fact that Indonesia, which scored far worse than impoverished neighbors such as Laos and Myanmar, has a chronic problem with aviation safety.

Although in recent years there were glimmers of hope that aviation safety might be improving, the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 into the Java Sea on Sunday has renewed concerns that Indonesia cannot keep up with the ever-growing popularity of air travel as incomes rise and low-cost carriers multiply.

What role, if any, the failings of Indonesia’s aviation system may have played in the crash of Flight 8501 may not be known for weeks. But in a country of 17,000 islands, where cheap flights are replacing the ferry journeys that Indonesians used to take across the archipelago, the chances of dying on an Indonesian plane, while rare, are unacceptably high, experts say.

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