Neighbors to Assist in Air Emergencies

JAKARTA ~ Indonesia’s neighbors will take over control of its air traffic if the sprawling archipelago’s aircraft tracking system fails, under a plan released this week, according to officials.

The plan for Indonesia’s air traffic control system was developed following a slew of recent plane disasters that have claimed more than 100 lives, they said.

Two centers would assume control of air traffic in Indonesia under the plan, in an effort to streamline the system, said senior transport ministry official M. Nasir Usman, according to local media reports.

If natural disasters or mechanical faults close down both centers – in the capital Jakarta and Makassar in south Sulawesi – then Singapore, Malaysia and other neighbors would step in until the problems were resolved, he said.

“We are preparing a contingency plan and will reach an agreement with neighboring countries,” said Usman at a conference in Jakarta.

Full details, including technical arrangements between the countries and when it would take effect, have not yet been finalized.

On New Year’s Day an Adam Air jet disappeared off Indonesian radar with 102 people on board. The air control centre in Makassar failed to detect its last coordinates, prompting an extensive land and sea search.

Only small pieces of the plane have been found in the ocean off Sulawesi. Its black box recorders, located on the ocean floor, have not yet been recovered.

In March, a jet belonging to national carrier Garuda Indonesia crash-landed at Yogyakarta airport before bursting into flames and killing 21 people.

The air traffic initiative is one of several by the embattled Transport Ministry to try to improve Indonesia’s woeful air safety record.

It was requested by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a UN agency charged with improving air safety.

Officials from Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Australia and the United States attended the meeting.

“Indonesia will become the first country to implement this,” Usman, the head of air traffic safety at the ministry, was quoted as saying.

He could not be immediately reached for more comment.

Kyotaro Harano, a regional officer with ICAO, said the agency had asked Indonesia to introduce the plan because of its vast territory.

It also has a large number of international flights and was prone to natural disasters, he said.

“If the two air control centers in Indonesia cannot function, the effect on international flights is quite large,” Harano said.

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