New Planes Mean Safer Flying in Indonesia: VP

JAKARTA ~ Vice President Yusuf Kalla hailed the first of a fleet of new aircraft for a low-cost airline as a “first step” to easing concerns over the nation’s embattled aviation sector.

Kalla was speaking at a ceremony at Jakarta’s airport on Monday as budget airline Lion Air took delivery of a first 737-900ER plane, one of 60 ordered from Boeing.

Kalla acknowledged that Indonesia’s aviation had drawn “a lot of criticism and cynicism” in the wake of deadly accidents in recent months.

“Therefore, this day is the first step towards answering the worries of people and the criticism of many parties about the safety of flying in Indonesia,” Kalla said at the ceremony, before taking a ride in the plane.

Lion Air placed an order for 30 Boeing 737-900ER single-aisle passenger planes in 2005 and increased its order by another 30 last year.

The 2006 deal cost Lion Air, the launch customer for the 737-900ER, US$2.2 billion. The planes are to be delivered between now and 2012.

Indonesia has seen a series of deadly accidents, as well as minor ones, in recent months.

An Adam Air plane crashed into the ocean on New Year’s Day killing all 102 people aboard, prompting an audit of all commercial airliners and air charter firms that discovered none had implemented all minimum safety requirements.

A plane operated by national carrier Garuda Indonesia burst into flames after landing at Yogyakarta’s airport in central Java early last month, killing 21 people.

Several other planes have crash-landed or had to abort takeoff or landing because of technical problems, although without injury.

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