Tragedy struck in the capital of Indonesia on January 9 as Flight SJ182 violently crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 62 passengers aboard. The crash was preceded by a delay of over two hours after weather complications prevented takeoff. Rescue teams of divers are still searching for remains, both of the wreckage and to identify victims.
This tragic crash is far from being the first in Jakarta’s history. Indonesia is known for being exceptionally prone to plane crashes. This is partially due to the often unpredictable weather in Indonesia, such as violent tropical storms like the one that was at least partially responsible for the crash. From the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 104 civilian airliner accidents in Indonesia since 1945 with over 1,300 related fatalities (). The latest of these crashes took place in 2018, where a Boeing 737 Max crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 182 aboard. Flight safety measures are continually being improved in Indonesia, but the coronavirus has led to many complications for airlines, including for their airplanes.
The plane was a Boeing 737-500 that had been in commission for 26 years. The Boeing 737-500, not to be confused with the controversial and oft ill-fated 737 Max, is considered a safe standard for most commercial airlines. This most recent crash is just the fourth for the entire line of 737-500 planes. The plane had been regularly maintained, although it had remained out of commission for 9 months last year during the worldwide shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus. Authorities are yet to make a final decision on whether or not the plane was indeed air-worthy, but maintenance complaints weren’t only a problem for the plane. The pilot, Captain Afwan, had decades of experience. However, during lockdown, he, like many others in his profession, was unable to practice flying besides the use of flight simulators. This has raised many concerns over pilots being out of practice since their flights are few and far between.
As the world waits for the black box to be recovered and the crash explained, Indonesia’s flight safety procedures are being called into question once more. This crash also highlights internationally how the flight industry is being critically impacted by COVID-19. Perhaps some good can come of this horrific tragedy if it leads to standards being improved and pilots getting more practice after so many months without work.