Editorial – Mayday… Mayday

If accounts from a former Air Adam pilot about his tenure at the airline are true, the state of the nation’s fledgling budget aviation is in terrifyingly dire straits.

“There was no maintenance check by engineers but I was forced to sign the maintenance log” for a flight from Jakarta to Medan, said Sutan Salahuddin, who broke his contract after 18 months with Adam Air.

On another occasion, the 36-year-old pilot objected to flying to Padang in West Sumatra after the plane’s back-up navigation failed – until, he said, his boss jumped in and applied pressure to get the airliner in the air.

“I was called directly by the owner … I was really scared,” Salahuddin said last week as he awaited the outcome of a lawsuit by Adam Air for breaking his four-year contract, the judge eventually announcing that an out-of-court settlement had been reached by both sides.

Meanwhile, over 100 people are still missing along with the Adam Air jet they were aboard that disappeared from radar screens on New Year’s Day en route to Sulawesi from Java.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s newly announced special team to investigate the country’s transport sector after a series of recent tragedies on rail, the seas and in the air needs urgently to access just what is going on at the nation’s airports that allows airlines such as Adam Air to allegedly break national and international aviation regulations by sidestepping time-consuming and costly maintenance and bullying pilots into flying airplanes they are not comfortable with.

Passengers’ lives are at stake, yet it appears some low-cost airline bosses are, in cases that we hope are extreme yet concede may be altogether widespread, putting profit ahead of safety.

To start with, the authorities can swiftly examine Salahuddin’s claims, and if founded, take stern action against those who blatantly flout the rules.

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