Friday, February 17, 2006

Recently on the way back from my holidays in Bali, I took a flight from Denpasar to Jakarta with Adam Air. I’ve heard about this relatively new airlines from several friends who all mentioned that Adam Air have brand new aircrafts and are even authorised to fly to Singapore. It sounded extremely good especially considering the one way ticket price of Rp295.000, which was just a bit higher than offer from the cheapest “metro-mini” style none-budget carrier Lion Air. The offer seem to be so good that base on my experience of living in Indonesia for several years, I immediately started thinking that this is just too good and there must be something wrong. Anyway, I decided to try my luck and fly with Adam Air. Apparently many other passengers thought the same, as the flight was totally booked – comparable to Garuda flight which had almost no passengers.

When boarding I immediately noticed that the Boeing 737-400 aircraft had the engine cover scratched everywhere, wings were all dirty and had broken paint in multiple places, aircraft door also looked very old and far from what I would expect from a brand new aircraft. Nevertheless, I decided to test the level of my fear of flying and get on the plane. Just for the record I noted the airplane registration code PK-KKI.

When arrived in Jakarta I looked up the airplane code in the database and the “brand new” aircraft that I was flying apparently had its first flight on 10-12-1988, thus being 17 years old age aircraft, which if compared humans, the airplane would be in its late forties. In its long life the mentioned airplane also travelled a lot as it was previously used by Sahara India Airlines, Sierra National Airlines and Air Belgium (first owner), thus having pretty much interesting life as an aircraft.

Now a question arises if I had a bad lack to fly with the only old airplane in Adam Air's fleet or actually the fleet is not as new as I’ve expected. Following my curiosity I prepared a table of Adam Air owned aircrafts providing the age of each aircraft:

Registration Aircraft First flight date Aircraft Age
PK-KKF 737-200 12-2-1980 26
PK-KKN 737-200 21-3-1980 25
PK-KKQ 737-200 16-1-1981 25
PK-KKJ 737-200 3-2-1982 24
PK-KKL 737-200 12-4-1984 21
PK-KKE 737-300 31-8-1987 18
PK-KKP 737-200 31-5-1988 17
PK-KKH 737-400 11-7-1988 17
PK-KKU 737-300 4-8-1988 17
PK-KKI 737-400 10-12-1988 17
PK-KKD 737-400 22-12-1988 17
PK-KKR 737-300 9-1-1989 17
PK-KKS 737-400 28-1-1989 17
PK-KKT 737-400 5-9-1989 16
PK-KKG 737-400 7-1-1991 15
PK-KKC 737-400 9-1-1992 14
PK-KKA 737-500 10-6-1997 8

Looking at that I feel I was actually lucky as the 17 years old aircraft I had a pleasure to fly with is actually very new if compared to another Aircraft used by Adam Air registered as PK-KKN (KKN is actually one of the most popular acronyms in Indonesia originated from Korupsi-Kolusi-Nepotisme) which at a current date is 25 years old. Comparable to human age this aircraft would be in its late seventies and probably already having one spot booked at the graveyard.

Base on the table above we can also calculate an average age of the Adam Air's fleet, which is 18 years. Actually, there was only one airplane that was less than 10 years old and if I’m not mistaken that must be the Adam Air aircraft authorised to land in Singapore.

Clearly, many passengers chose Adam Air airlines thinking about the new airplanes, when actually the fleet is full of refurbished aircrafts with only one relatively new aircraft which is used by Adam Air marketing team to create an image or rather mirage, of having fleet of new aircrafts.

Maybe Adam’s Air definition of “new” is somehow local Indonesian definition, thus I might have wrong perspective. To verify that I compared age of major Indonesian airlines and came up with the following statistics of indonesian aircraft carriers average age of the fleet:

Garuda Indonesia - Age 10 years
Lion Air - Age 17.2 years
Adam Air - Age 18.1 years
Awair - Age 18.8 years
Merpati - 21.8 years
Batavia - Age 23.4 years
Sriwijaya Air - Age 23.5 years
Mandala Airlines - Age 23.9 years
Bouraq Indonesia Airlines - Age 25.1 years

Shocking! With 18 years old fleet of elderly aircrafts Adam Air comes on the third position of the newest aircraft fleet in Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia leads with 10 years old fleet. Another great surprise is that none-budget carried Lion Air comes second with just a little over 17 years old fleet – that is almost half older fleet than Garuda Indonesia. The list is closed by Bouraq Indnonesia Airlines which with 25 years old fleet gives me an idea of a Fear Factor stunt “Flight with Bouraq” for test of flying phobia. Mandala Airlines comes second from the end.

Having Mandala Airlines so low in the list reminds me about the Mandala’s Boeing 737-200 crash on 05/09/2005 which resulted in total body count almost 150. At the date of incident the PK-RIM aircraft was almost 24 years in service. For comparison the Lion Air's McDonnell-Douglas MD-82 airplane that crashed in Solo Airport on 30/11/2004 at the date of incident that resulted in 25 fatalities was 20 years in service. At last report, it had accumulated 56,674 flight hours and 43,940 landings!

I somehow think that it’s not just a coincidence that the aircraft that crashed were at least 20 years old.

To compare that to the foreign airlines, I checked the average age of fleet of pervious owners of the Adam Air’s PK-KKI aircraft I was flying with.

Blue Panorama Airlines: Age of the fleet - 11.6 years
Sahara India Airlines: Age of the fleet - 10.5 years
Interesting, 11.6 years and 10.5 years which I think proves that both airlines found this plane too old to operate, while Adam Air management thinks operating 17 years old aircraft is perfectly fine.

Browsing through recent newspapers I’ve found several articles that will be a good conclusion for this post.

The first one comes from The Jakarta Post (dated 11 February 2006):

An Adam Air Boeing 737-300 plane serving the Jakarta-Makassar route was forced to make an emergency landing Saturday at the small Tambulaka Airport in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, a spokesperson for Adam Air said.

The plane took off from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 6:20 a.m. with 145 passengers on board. It was scheduled to land at Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar at 9:25 a.m. local time, Suwandi, Adam Air supervisor for Makassar, said. There is a one hour time difference between Jakarta and Makassar.

However, navigational problems caused pilot Tri Tuniogo to lose contact with the destination airport, he said. The plane was later found to have landed at Tambolaka at 9:45 a.m. local time.

"No one was hurt in the incident," Didik, Adam Air's public relations officer for Jakarta, said, adding that the emergency landing was made due to bad weather. "As to whether it was a storm or heavy rain that forced the pilot to land -- we remain uninformed," he said.
Ok, so there was a bad weather and airplane had to land. Nothing unusual, right? Until you read the follow-up published on the Valentine’s day.
The ministry of transportation considers that Adam Air committed a serious violation when operating a plane still required for "evidence" following a serious incident affecting the navigation system of the plane. "That is a serious violation and the first ever committed by an airline in Indonesia. The Adam Air management needs to be examined in connection with it," the ministry's director general of air transportation, Iksan Tatang, said replying a reporter's question here on Monday.

Adam Air's Boeing 737-300 aircraft with flight number DHI728 had made an emergency landing at Tambolaka airstrip in West Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, after wandering for three hours due to a navigation system failure on its way from Jakarta to East Nusa Tenggar with 145 passengers on board.

On Sunday the aircraft was flown by the airline's operations director, Ade Salmiar, to Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, Sulawesi, after technicians from the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali repaired it.

The director general said the plane should not have been flown pending an examination by the National Committee of Transportation Safety (KNKT) and the Directorate of Airworthiness Certification.

"In view of that the Adam Air management must be examined, including the pilot that flew it," he said adding that if the pilot was found to be aware that his action was actually wrong he could have his license revoked.
That’s interesting. Previously it was a bad weather and now it is a navigation system failure. Huh? I think the real story came up only because of the serious violation committed by Adam Air. FYI two of my friends flew with Lion Air from Manado and airplane had a serious malfunction to the extent that stewardess ordered everyone to wear a life vest. Fortunately flight finished without fatalities and nothing appeared in news - probably thanks to the KKN acronym I’ve mentioned before.

You probably wonder how old was that Boeing 737-300 which got navigation system failure acka landed because of bad weather? Looking at the age of Adam Air’s 737-300 fleet the plane must be at least 17 years in service. That is probably 3 years too short to have this small incident resulting in fatalities and adding another Indonesian airplane crash to the list. Looking at the whole picture, I predict there will be at least one Indonesian aircraft accident before the end of this year. Thus, have a nice flight everyone! Meanwhile, I'll fly with Garuda.

Update: Follow-up on the PK-KKW crash here.


icha said...

nice article, very informative

salam =)

oigal said...

That is scary...Fly Lion the other day to be on-loaded to a "Wings" plane..Lights didn't work, back rest busted, could not turn off the air...Just scary to think about the important stuff that I could not see..

R500 said...

Have you flown on the locally made aircraft CN 235 ?

that's ADRENALINE RUSH dude....

for more travelling & adrenaline shots join

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Sure r500. However, I'm this type of person who dosn't smoke, always uses seatbelts, flights using safe airlines etc. I don't need adrenaline rush when it comes to sports and physical security, I prefer safety. Even my jobs is related to risks and safety, thus I have bit of different attitude when it comes to risking my life than you - I'm sure you consider that very boring hehe. I also think thrill seekers have lots of fun, but this is because psychological predispositions to be like that, while I don't.

Maya said...

Before I didn't want to 'know'...because it's just going to make it worse to fly with indonesian airlines even though I always wondered how 'KKN' affects these fleets, but now you have confirmed it all! :-D Great post and well-researched. Now I know better...will I be scared next time I'll in Indo to fly around? don't know yet...but my family is already scared to death everytime they fly around places...

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Overall, flying is relatively safe with any Indonesian airlines, even with Adam Air and Buraq. However, the risk is much lower when flying with Garuda. After checking all this I think I'll try to use Garuda more often than other Indonesian airlines, even if the cost of tickets is bit higher. Oh, when buying tickets at Garuda counter I could even ask about the age of the airplane and they could provide me with correct answer. Like once I've been told that I'll be flying with oldest aircraft in Garuda Fleet hehe, on the flight GA413 from Bali to JKT (4 and 13!) which made me extremely terrified, but I appreciate the honesty of the people at Garuda counter. Anyway, what I think Garuda should do is get ride of all the extremely old aircrafts in their fleet … which I think will happen shortly considering the recent deal with Boeing.

Maya said...

Good update info, Marek :-) I'm impressed with 'customer service' at Garuda then...yeah, I heard the deal with Boeing. It'll raise their tickets no?

Yerri said...

Marek, your article confirms my scary feeling anytime I fly with low cost carrier in Indonesia. I always think how can this guy sell very cheap tickets without giving away the safety, now I know, they sell cheap tickets of very old aircraft to non informative passenger like me. I would be better if you write to KOMPAS for a wider effect of this warning to safe others' life. Everyone does not want to risk or lose their love ones especially because of old aircraft and cheap tickets. (YERRI)

Marek Bialoglowy said...

I should actually inform why I decided to run my own blog. It started from an article that I wrote for one of the prominent local newspapers. The journalists seem to like the text a lot, yet after few weeks there was still no publication and the text was actually never released. It was only recently that I've found out what happened. The company I’ve been writing an article about have paid up the editor few thousands dollars for not releasing the article - I know this from close source to the editor. As you can see the KKN in journalism is real, thus if we talk about writing for local newspapers, I think I prefer blogging.

I never released that text and I won’t mention the name of the newspaper. Why? Major newspapers and TV stations are very powerful and can put the truth their own way. Moreover, people are easy to manipulate and tend to believe everything they read or watch in TV and even worse they rarely question anything. I’d never win a battle with the local media industry, it is mission impossible. Fortunately, in era of Internet everyone can publish content on their own and that’s why I think blogging will get more and more popular.

I believe this trend will follow and maybe ten years from now lots of people will read blogs of known journalists rather than major newspapers. This trend starts to be very visible in US and major newspapers are even hiring bloggers for millions of dollars to run their blogs on newspaper’s site. This just confirms that media start to notice how important blogging became and try to hijack bloggers before their competitors do.

BTW I just wonder if anyone has a similar experience with local press.

PS: FYI I sometimes write articles for Tabloid Pulsa (the best local cellular tabloid) but this is only about technical subjects. No investigation and controversial subjects involved.

Ayerwe said...

Hi Marek

which web address we know first fligt date of a registration aircraft? It is interesting..


Maya said...

Way to go, Marek! you did the right thing to blog your journalism, you're a good journalist for sure :-) I know for myself, I don't read newspapers anymore...I'm a blog addict now! :-D can't trust media 100% even in the U.S. and other develped countries, it's hard to judge which media are for depends who owns the channels, right? People...people...there are some who always do anything with money/power to bent the truth for their own good of course.

Anonymous said...

hello ..
for your info... we have talk about your trip in i think you cannot rely your safety on how old the aircraft is..but how good the maintenance is. you better fly with a well maintain 20 years old aircraft that fly with 2 year old aircraft that is never go to maintenance. So the key in here is maintenance not how old the aircraft is.

If you are owner of airline than you might think about age of aircraft..because it effect your efficiency.older aircraft means higher maintenance cost but lower ownership cost.

best regards

boy indra

Marek Bialoglowy said...

I would base the perfect aircraft age / aircraft safety analysis on the number of flight hours, starts, landings corelated to the age of the aircraft that crashed rather than solely the age of the aircraft. Unfortunately, I don't have this data. However, I prepared brief comparison of the average age of the fleet in Indonesian airlines to the average age of the airline's aircraft that crashed.

# Garuda

Average Fleet Age: ~10 years
Average Crash Plane Age: 15 years (13 + 15 + 17 / 3)
Difference: +~50%

Note: Sorry, I don't have enough time to calculate the average fleet age on the dates of the crashes.

# Lion

Average Fleet Age (date of the crash): ~16 years
Average Crash Plane Age: 24 years
Difference: +~50%

# Mandala

Average Crash Plane Age: ~20 years
Average Fleet Age (date of the crash): 22 years
Difference: -~10%

Base on the very brief statistcs above I see a feasible trend of incidents affecting aircrafts that are above the average fleet age of airline that had an incident. On average the aircraft that crash will be around +30% above the average age of the airline's fleet. In my opinion this is a significant difference. This would be even more favorable towards my theory if I'd add weight to my statistics as a number of aircrafts in the airlines or at best compare the total age of all indonesian passanger jets to the average age of crashed jets. Considering the number of jets in Garuda's fleet I believe the final number would be not +30% but something in range 35-40%. Anyone have enough time and would like to calculate that more precisely?

I think +30% in statistics is a lot. What do you guys think?

Marek Bialoglowy said...

My final conclusion is based on the following "Human error is the primary contributor to more than 70 percent of all commercial airplane accidents." Newer aircrafts are equipped with security systems that reduce the possibility of human error, thus they are automatically safer. The age of the aircrafts has some importance (as seen in my little analysis) but the most important is still pilot training and aircraft maintenance. Thus, I'd look for airlines that get best pilots and treat them well … BTW have you heard of a lawsuit of Lion Air pilot against Lion Air? This is the pilot for the Lion Air flight in Solo. From what I’ve heard the company provided no, or little insurance to him and due to the incident he suffered damage to his health. Can anyone confirm this?

nova said...


merci beaucoup !

ayu said...

hah. after a couple weeks of wondering if that rather eye-boggling email i got about an expat and crummy airplanes was for real, i finally get directed to ur blog. Yes i agree its much more liberating writing in ur own blog, but like u said, security matters, and for a lot of people. Matters of public safety like this should get serious (meaning formal and acredited) coverage...
I think deep down people realize that those airlines have serious problems with all the crashes going around, you voiced and researched these thoughts, and it is clear that we should be more aware of the situation.
Cool blog entry:-)

ULYA said...

Marek, you did a good investigation.
well, actually, aircraft age (in year terms) is really meaningless. We usually use cycles and landings instead. Nothing to worry about aircraft age (cycles and flight hours).
NWA or Delta was reused the retired DC9 or 727-200 which is already reached 100.000 landings.
As a matter of fact, DC9 was designed only for 60.000 landings.

You don't have to worry even you flown with aging aircraft, as long as they did an appropriate maintenance and safety inspection.
But, yes, this is another big question...:D

Maybe you could equipped your investigation using the cycles and airworthiness sertification.
I'm affraid the people would get confused and wrong understanding about the biggest tool invention in human history.


mary said...

just received your article in my email. Very interesting I must say. But a friend of mine is wondering, how to find out how old an airplane is? Is there any reliable source in which we can consider ourselves when we want to fly? And from the code, how can we correlate them to the aircraft age? Thanks.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

If you wish to check the age of aircraft, you can check The information provided there is quite accurate. Optionally, you can just search by the registration no. on Google. Last option is to call the local aviation board and ask where you can get detailed information about an aircraft (i.e. history, no. of flight hours etc.) - just say you're interested in buying this aircraft or something alike.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Short follow-up.

There have been like dozens versions of my article circulating around Indonesian Internet user community – some not even published under my name, some with changed content representing different picture of the story. I also received dozen of e-mails, some providing very useful information others insults and even threats.

Anyway, in many e-mails I received I can read that “age is not a factor” and it doesn’t have any influence on aircraft security. Well, I can’t agree with that at all.

The age is a factor and if there is a problem with maintenance and quality of training of the pilots or technical personnel, things can lead to accident. Accident rarely happens because of one failure, it is usually combination of human error and other factors such as bad weather, condition of an aircraft etc. and the age of an aircraft is one of these factors.

To backup my claim, please check the links below. All of them clearly state that age of an aircraft is important and has impact on aircraft maintenance, thus impact on safety:

Preventing Fretting Damage Becomes Increasingly Critical as Aircraft Age:

Age-related Failures of Aircraft Wiring Remain Difficult to Detect:

Managing the Aging Aircraft Problem:

"We now know that wiring insulation deteriorates with age. Laymen tend to think of aging only in terms of elapsed time. However, aircraft wiring insulation aging rate is also a function of the operating environment and conditions. This aging rate is principally affected by four factors: vibration, moisture, heat, and mechanical stress. These factors vary throughout the aircraft, and certain insulation types are more vulnerable to these factors than others. Thus, the aging rates will vary."

An ageing fleet:

Anonymous said...

A nice perspective on how the company is run is here:

read and make up your own mind...

A Decent Man said...

Hello! Now I know who made that mind-boggling email. Hehehe. So, I think you should send an email as a conclusion of this topic. Hopefully in few months will be landed in my inbox.

Nice blog anyway :-)

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Regarding the e-mail that was circulating in Indonesia, simply saying I have nothing to do with this. Several individuals copied text from my blog and distributed it via e-mail in modified form without any reference to my blog. I can't do much about it and only hope soon or later some of the people who actually read this e-mail will somehow get to the correct source of this information and read this text in the original form.

Anonymous said...

Marek, yes it is true... age is important for every vehicle you ride. Unfortunately, aircraft has three age: Year/Day, Cycle, and Hour (flight hour).

These ages can affect the component all, or only once. For example, for landing gear only cycle is used (some airline also use hour or date), Engine only hour, bu airframe (structure) has 2 ages, Year for environmental damage (corrosion) and Cycle for fatigue.

I think you have done a good research, but I think you need to ask the expert before releasing yours.

Happy writting!

Anonymous said...

An update:
Last week an uproar over the news of the mafia practices on air cargo in Jakarta International airport.
Then on Saturday, Kompas published a thorough investigative report on the scary handling of cargo at the airport. Many times the manifest does not fit the actual weight nor the content of the cargos.
IF the airline already mismanaged, then the infrastructure also mismanage, do not wonder why there are so many airlines accident in Indonesia.
What else is new? This is the normal practices in Indonesia on almost all aspects of life.

As for the aircraft maintenance or spare parts, would you wonder if they also "corrupt" the purchases of spare parts, refurbished, repaint, re-sell back?

Tough life in Indonesia.

mawarhijau said...

Last time I boarded Adam Air :
- Poor guy next to me didn't have any seatbelt on his seat.
- The poor girl on my seat (me!) had a different seat belt compared to other seats (except for the poor guy's)
- The passengers were not told to straightened up their seats on take of and landing. I ended up having this big "om-om" reclined his seat right to my nose
- while waiting for take off, the air conditioner was shut down, in the middle of a veeery hot day in Jakarta
- The plane looked plainly old, that if it were human we could have studied at the same year in highschool..
- The food.. ah.. the food.. you can buy better food for about 5 US$ cents in a warung rokok..

irfan said...

Wow, i know that indonesian airliners weren't too safe, but i never realized it was that serious...!

What about trains though? PT KAI?? Cause i'm considering to travel more often by train than by plane considering this circumstance...

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Trains? I think it's as bad as with aircrafts and train accidents happen here frequently. I now fly with Garuda on local flights and it tend to be better than others in most aspects. They have their own advanced service facilities, thus I think from the technical point of view Garuda aircrafts must be well maintained.

For international flights my choice was always Lufthansa or KLM, but it has more to do with their service rather than safety, as overall the safety of foreign airlines is very high - except if you fly to Russia or Africa, but that's another story.

Anyway, it's all up to you guys. I'm in the security industry so I take all sort of risks rather seriously. You may have higher level of acceptance of risks than me and fly with all sort of airlines without any fear.

Alde said...

Thanks for a well-researched post. I've always been scared of flying (not a serious one, but my heartbeat rate is higher than average whenever i fly, i'll get cold feet and sweay hands,and would not rest until the seatbelt sign is turned off.

I do wonder why this airlines are able to sell cheap tickets, and tried to confirm my believe that there must be something wrong. I flew with Lion, Merpati, Adam, and Garuda. I stopped flying with Lion and Merpati for reasons. When i was quite young, i flew with merpati, and somewhat the plane starts to shake violently and the airstewardess who sit behind me started to chant perayers...
Lion...i flew with it twice, thinking that maybe the 2nd one would be better, but i was wrong. far hasn't conflicted serious damage on my mental health, but i'm still curious and now scared even more.

I personally would fly with garuda even if it costs me more. At least my heart doesn't beat as loud as when i fly with the other airlines. I just hope this airline won't go bankrupt with the amount of passangers it has these days.

Ellis Taylor said...

Hi Marek,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Adam Air. I flew on Star Air and Mandala last year between a couple of places in Indonesia. Both airlines got us there without incident but on the outside some of the planes looked a little worse for wear. I still have a photo of one of the Mandala planes which looked like it had taken a slide down the runway on its nose.

Your figures on older aircraft are interesting but don't tell the full story. Older aircraft can be just as safe as newer ones provided there is the right maintenance of them. Many of the same vintage aircraft are in service with airlines in the US and Europe including Delta, United and SAS to name a few. The problem in Indonesia though is that the level of care these planes need is generally not there.

Overall, given the level of operations there, flight in Indonesia are defintaely not the worst for safety. It will be interesting to see when Lion Air get their new (and I mean really new, straight from the factory) Boeing 737-900ERs soon to see what happens with them. Hopefully there should not be as many incidents and accidents as they have had in the past.

Anonymous said...

Talking about an aeroplane reliablity, not simply about the year manufactured as mentioned..but it is stricly the matters of the whole profile of the operator such the system management as well as the maintenance of the engine. I am flown certain amount of thousand hour 737 aircraft,even 732 and 733/4/5...there is nothing scarry moment I have had experienced,esp FMC (flight managemen Comp), WHY?? I think because I run my Flying carieer in a company where the aircraft maintenance is done accordingly..I was flown PK--- as well, and now I flying somewhere on the globe. On my point of view why this issue happen in airlines in Indonesia (except two BUMN,you might know..,) because we dont have strong regulatory body to ruling out the limitation..Cheers.

Adek said...

waw!!!!! this is awesome article!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome article...

the question is.. "Now what should we do??"


Anonymous said...

Wow! Real 'Wing and a Prayer' stuff!

Anonymous said...

How I wish that the passengers of the adam air flight which crashed (as you predicted) had read this article.

Anonymous said...

I loved the article - very informative - but I'd like to point out that the age of a plane is counted in rotations (a rotation is a take-off and landing). The problem with this is that an airline using say a 747 for purely long-haul, ends up with an old aircraft that still has a lot of service left in it. To counter this Japan Airlines uses it's new 747's on short-haul before switching them to long-haul. That way, the number of rotations matches the age of their aircraft so they get maximum use out of them.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about Adam Air seem to well founded due to day's news that one of their aircraft is missing.

You should send this to CNN.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

I'm terrified to hear about the missing Adam Air aircraft. I still hope they somehow managed to land somewhere safely. Yes, I wrote last February that at least one aircraft will have accident in 2006 (I changed it to "incident" in the final version) this year and I truly hoped that I was wrong. Unfortunately, now it looks like I was wrong only by one day. I'm still looking forward to more news about this issue and I really hope they managed to land and nobody got hurt.

Many readers pointed out in their comments that aircraft age is not a major safety issue which I agree. However, this is just one of the issues related to Adam Air as many people pointed out – see comments above. My first experience was related to poor condition of their aircraft and people wrongly thinking that Adam Air uses mainly new aircrafts, which was main subject of my post. It was later that I've discovered that it goes further as there are number of other safety related issues such as Adam Air pilots complaining about safety issues etc. FYI the missing aircraft had it's first flight on 11/01/1989.

Anonymous said...

Dear Marek,
You wrote an interesting article for Joe Public. Unfortunately your conclusions are far away from reality. What happened is you've got the wrong idea and then started to find the facts which can prove it. If you take the idea that Earth is flat you can actually find a lot of facts favouring this.

I would make only one statement about your idea: the biggest problem is that you have missed the fact what have caused most accidents. You are assuming planes are crashing due to the age (=technical failures). This is wrong. Technical failures statistically make much less than 10% of all accidents. And more than 80% of accidents are caused by human factor (=pilot mistakes).

Anyone professionally involved in airline industry will say you that aircraft age has nothing to do with safety as long as aircraft well maintained. Major carriers like Delta and American Airlines have been using a lot of old aircraft and no problem. Finnair, which is probably the only "old" airline in the world which never had a crash, been using 20+ years old DC-9s until noise stage 2 aircraft been banned from Europe.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Thanks for a very good comment. Age of Adam Air aircrafts was my focus because in Indonesia public had a wrong idea that Adam Air used brand new aircrafts. I discovered that it is not true and everyone was simply manipulated by smart media campaign. I agree with you that aircraft age does not have significant impact on the aircraft safety. However, please notice that maintenance of aircrafts in Indonesia can be very poor (for certain airlines), which combined with old ages of aircrafts could increase risk of aircraft disaster. Certainly this has very little impact and definitely maintenance is most important as much as pilot training. FYI I don't feel unsafe when I'm sometimes on board of an old ATR aircraft during flight in Europe, I simply trust European airlines that they can handle maintenance well. However, I'd be panicked if I'd had to fly on board of an old ATR aircraft here in Indonesia.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

FYI to my current knowledge the registration of missing aircraft is PK-KKW. It was piloted by Revi Agustian Widodo and co-pilot Yoga.

Jeff said...

Hi Marek,
I just read your post which was interesting... and it remember my first and last flight with Adam from Semarang to Jakarta last july. I was with my girlfriend trying to find the best fares and we went to adam air office. The advertising inside said "Fly with us with our new 737-400 aircraft"... So I felt really confortable to buy those ticket...
But when we arrived at the airport, SURPRISE, it was a 737-200 easy to reconise with their engine... My first reaction was a worry reaction. But when we arrie in the airplane, we had one handbag each the biggest one in the cargo space. But I was so shocked to see passenger boarding with BIG huge case (1or2!!!). and the reaction of passenger when the Stewardess asked them to put it in the cargo area... They were angry, and didn't understood that it was for their safety... And As we were in the 2nd row, and because of the overluggage took by the other passenfers, they were no more space to put our bags upstairs... I really thought to leave the aircraft before takeoff, but i felt it's ridiculous. When we took ofn my girlfriend found me praying... I was so scared... Finally the fly was ok, and we land safely in Jakarta... And I was also surprise to see many passengers switched on theire mobile phone and called their family while we were still on the runaway...
Terrific, people don't care of their safety and the airlines too...
Sorry for my english.

Jeff (France)

Apollo said...

What a wonderful bunch of comments and observations. I have worked in the aircraft industry for over 40 years and 27 of those in the far east. I am very familiar with Indonesia's airline business. I have to say that there has been no real increase in air saftey from the days that Mempati operated Vickers Vanguards and Boraq operated Viscounts. Indonisea is vertually unique in its sudden severe weather conditions its remote areas and many islands that have to be served by its internal operators. We know that it is not a paticular rich country but still tries its best to keep up the internal services. Well done!!!
A lot has been said on this Blog concerning age of aircraft. May I say that in the industry it is a fact that age IS directly proportional to accidents and incidents on commercial aircraft. Befor those who dont agree with that statement start shouting at their computer screen let me explain.
Aircraft life is recorded in hours, cycles and calander (years).
When an airliner is first purchased a fixed cost is established with respect to the maintenance, including spares. This is added to the other operating costs such as pilot training including simulator, other staff training, saleries, facilities at main base and outstations. As years go by the maintenance costs go up due to the aircrsft wanting more maintenance man hours per flight hour and the increased cost of component repair including engines. As the years roll on the calander factor starts to raise its ugly head and manufacturers insist on huge amounts of inspections, major modifications and replacements of parts.Finally the orignal perchaser of the aircraft decides to sell the aircraft.The second perchaser goes thru the same senario until he finds its uneconomical to operate the aircraft. By the time the aircraft has got to the 3rd. or 4th. owner it is 15 to 25 years old and is now being operated usually by an airline that 'interprets' the manufacturers maintenance requiremt somewhat differently to the orinal owner, who incidently was governed by a strong regulatory authority. We now have a combination of extreamly high maintenance requirements, a major carrier regulated by a very strict regulatory authority deciding to off load the aircraft onto the market cheaply, and a small, usually, 3rd world airline finding enough money to purchase the aircraft but not able to operate it with due consideration of its AGE. This combined with the lack of sufficiant reccuring training for all staff including pilots and engineers, makes an accident or incident waiting to happen.
My sympathy goes out to the loved ones of those on the missing Adam Air, tonight.
Marak, please keep up the good work on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the recent crash of Adam Air today: How sad to read your comments of February 2006 and to now see that your fear was so justified. Please keep speaking up.

Anonymous said...

I went to college with Adam Air's Chief Operating Officer (former Executive Vice President) in the United States. His father is extremely wealthy, and is also head of Indonesia's People's Representative Council, a very powerful political office in that country. The airline actually started out as a "pet-project", so to speak, and I was always worried about how an airline would be handled by a group of people with absolutely no knowledge of the airline industry. I hope this lack of knowledge isn't what led to the deaths of the passengers today.

Anonymous said...

Extremely interesting, and in light of the incident on 1/1/07 the question hqs to be asked "which plane exactly was it and had it violated any safety or operational procedures before flight"?

Anthony said...

Commenting on the recent crashed:
I think we all learned our lesson that we just don't take safety seriously here in Indonesia, until incident and accident happened we then realized how careless we are and how greedy man in doing their business to ignore people safety for huge and easy profit. I believed beside all those technical stuff, the human error and weather condition has playing the biggest part for an aircraft accident, I also think the pilot was being order to flight in such bad weather to fullfill number of flight at the day by ignoring passengers safety. Which mean they wouldn't rest even for bad weather (as this is not a big surprise here, look at how metro mini operated, trucking etc. people seem to underestimated life safety as it is not valuable at all), thanks marek for sharing your thought and for an early alarm... that unfortunetely ignored and turn off, I hope government here would concern more toward safety and regulations toward all aspect of life in all sectors.

Anonymous said...

What a great column. Its a real shame its on such a sad topic:( I hope some people wake up, and another such accident does not have to happen before safety issues are addressed. Its also unbelievable that all the news should state the aircraft has been found only for it to turn out to have been not.

Adam Air has an ex Malev Hungarian Airlines Boeing 737-400 in it fleet, that is PK-KKC. While it was at Malev I flew often with this aircraft to the days of retirement. I can vouch that it was in very good condition around 2003, I hate to think what its like now. I had a real bad fealing it was the crash aircraft yesterday, however luckily not.

Darryl Palmer said...

I live in Manado, and have lived in Indonesia for over 25 years as a religious worker. I anxiously wait for news of those names on the passenger manifest for the Adam Air flight that went down (on its way to Sam Ratulangi airport in Manado)
I agree with others that age of aircraft is a factor, but routine and regulated maintenance, pilot standards, and enforcement thereof... seems the predominant problem in Indonesia. I cannot remember when an airline was truly penalized by the government for violation of regulations...yes, the KKN factor.
By the way, my 13 year-old son was invited by a Mandala pilot to fly the Boeing 737 plane he was travelling on from Makassar to Manado a couple years ago. (we have pictures to document it). While the pilot did sit behind him to give direction on gyroscope and flying procedures, I mean, like he didn't take over until final approach to MDO...weird, my "faith" was shaken, despite my son's high fives upon arrival. Pak Deril

Claudia Annika said...

Hi, Im a Singaporean who flew on Lion Air JKT Via Makassar too b4 infact I have also flew Lion Air frm Singapore to JKT...the prices are not really cheap though..and the plane is real old...somehow or rather I feel that Garudas promotions whilst in Singapore are competitive to Lion Airs prices too..And the domestic price from JKT to Makassar was expensive the last time I flew...apparently it cost more then my flight from Singapore to JKT...whereas I dont feel a sense of security paying high prices but an old crammy plane . no offence but I think you know what I mean..the journey was a smooth one of course but I think extra technical prevention measures should be taken in consideration whilst maintaining the aircraft as most budget air carriers use older planes, thus that makes the cost cheaper then a new one..whereas there are times when such measures could not be forseen as there is HUMAN ERROR, nevertheless there is also machines error...prevention and full maintenance could be thoroughly checked on land giving it the green light to fly..but whilst in the air who could expect a break down??,..whereas the only conclusion is that the plane is old and when something is old there could be alot of unforseen malfuctions..same as an old minute they seem healthy the next day their health deteriates..anyway..lives are lost now and theres no use blaming technical error when then planes used in Budget Carriers are old..

Anonymous said...

As I have suspected long time ago.
Everyone says that I am very picky in choosing a plane in Indonesia. I always prefer Garuda than the others, because other airlines fees are cheaper. Cheap does not mean OK. Indeed, they are terribl as mentioned. Garuda's reputation is not very good as well.

adi said...

Boeing seems has more accident than Airbush. Not because of Boeing is more but this is American system which often likes to make embargo, not only for military or common goods but also embargo on services, finance, software and information including things related to aircraft. Very complicated and affecting to anything.

apollo said...

I am shocked to read Darryl Palmer's comments concerning a pilot with Mandala allowing his son to 'fly' the aircraft. It s acceptable to allow a passenger to sit in one of the pilots' seats IF the other pilot is in his seat and strapped in (seat belt on). The passenger must never control the aircraft in ANY WAY.This is a violation of international air saftey and shoud be reported to the Idonesian regulatory authority. I should remind eveyone of the total loss of all on board an Airbus 310 flying between Moscow and Hong Kong a few years ago. The captain allowed his child to 'fly the aircraft' this resulted in the aircraft spinning into the sea due to the incorrect movement of the controls whilst the aircraft was cruising at high altitude. I guess the aircraft was in approximately the same flight regime as the aircraft that Darryl's son 'flew'.
Regards to all, Apollo

g00fball said...

1. Generally, much more important than the age of the aircraft is the overall management of the airline itself, i.e. maintenance discipline, processes and procedures, etc. For example, witness the plethora of old aircraft operated by mainline Europeans and N. Americans airlines ...heck, Northwest's fleet of DC9s averaged 40+yrs, but on maintenance, they at least follow the proper procedures. Still a valid point and concern though on your behalf, Marek.
2. A new aircraft will be just as bad if used and abused the same way by these idiots running this airline.
3. Adi's comment should be your early "Idiotic Comment of The Year" candidate...'nuff said!

indra said...

Kalau masalah kecelakaan pesawat, itu relatif. Faktor utamanya hanya
tiga, pertama adalah maintenance yang bagus, kedua kehandalan pilot,
dan ketiga adalah KUASA TUHAN. Kecelakaan pesawat tidak melihat usia
pesawatnya berapa.

Sebuah Airbus A318 Air France yang baru berumur 1 hari (baca : SATU
HARI) setelah diterima dari pabriknya, jatuh dan hancur di ujung
landasan airport Le Bourguet Perancis akibat sistem ILS (Instrument
Landing System) nya yang salah kalibrasi, 8 orang tewas dalam
kecelakaan tsb. Juga pesawat 747-400 milik maskapai Singapore
Airlines yang baru berusia setahun, dilengkapi sistem radar anti
badai, GPS canggih serta segudang alat alat lainnya, jatuh dan
terhempas di Airport Chiang Kai Sek, Taipei Taiwan akibat cuaca
buruk, hanya 5 orang dari 300an orang yang selamat.

Di lain pihak, perusahaan penerbangan Qantas yang mengoperasikan
pesawat tua (rata rata usia pesawatnya 10 - 30 tahun), hingga saat
ini memegang rekor safety (teraman di dunia) dengan zero casualities
(korban meninggal dunia = 0). Peristiwa paling apes Qantas hanya
sebuah Jumbo Jet 747 nya yang hidrolik rodanya tak bisa keluar
sehingga memaksa pilot untuk melakukan belly landing (mendarat tanpa
roda). Semua 350 orang penumpang selamat, hanya saja keempat mesin
dan bagian bawah pesawat hancur total.

Sekali lagi, usia pesawat bukan faktor untuk menentukan kecelakaan.

Basheer said...

Hi,just came across your blog after some search about this topic.I have been traveling in and out of Indonesia for more than 25 years and especially more in the last 2 years.Needless to say mostly by flying.I had flown to Cambodia via Ho Chi Min city by Russian aircrafts in the 80s which even the pilots refuse to take on their off days.However,this thingy about Adam Air and your thought provoking article on the subject of "airworthiness"of Indonesian airlines are real scary.Why?..its because of this very salient and pertinent point you had so mentioned.That is,'know thy enemy'.We know what we were risking when flying in say,Timbuktu with a 6 seater without doors.Here in Indonesia we are lull into a false notion of safety.Now,my next worry is how does airlines keeps track of the identity of passengers,especially a foreigner!....this is particularly worrying as I often take flights at last minute in Indonesia and neither my office nor family in Singapore knows.Perhaps,you could pen on this subject too.Cheers!

Marek Bialoglowy said...

If you plan to comment recent PK-KKW accident, please do it on this page. Thank you all for your comments.

anthony said...

I would just like to add a comment in regards to flight safety and general age of aircraft. While I agree that in general the age of is factor in flight safety, it is because any well run airline will realize that if they are maintained appropriately they are uneconomical to operate. Therefore with a few exceptions most airlines who operate these aircraft cut corners. On the otherhand it is incorrect to associate these practices to budget airlines, as take the examples in Europe of Easyjet, Germanwings, Air Berlin, Wizzair, most have a more modern fleet that most national carries. I deliberately did not include Ryanair as till recent they still had 737-200 which where app 25 years old. Thought I refused to ever fly with them because of this, they managed to operate them with a perfect safety record. However they where a minor part of their fleet,so they had the resources to perhaps cover the additional costs.

I cannot recall a case before where it has taken so long to find a missing aircraft... I do hope they find them soon, at least for the sake of those poor relatives.

Anonymous said...

I think most Indonesian air passengers must have a Death Wish. The country's air safety record is terrible!

NTUStudent said...

Bravo very informative and details investigation, and now it was proved 1 of the Adam Air missing, any idea what the registration no?

Saw your end analyzed Indonesian flights own by Indonesian, What about AirAsia which also flying Indonesian sky? any details on that?
So we can compare how foreign LCC crafts with our own.

Anonymous said...

you know nothing about aeronautical engineering & airline operations, don't you? what skill do you have to justify your argument?
ngawur beyond belief!

Marek Bialoglowy said...

I think you should read the text first before posting such comments. I don't have to be an expert in aeronautical engineering to write about local airlines, I can simply verify some information with pilots/experts. If you think I wrote something that is incorrect I'm looking forward to your none-anonymous opinion and please be specific.

Anonymous said...

i think this is what indonesian should get use to it. if you want a very cheap airline, then expect that you put your life in balance and dont blame everyone if something goes bad. just like if you riding on metromini, where is the safety in that junk but indos still ride on that coz it cheap as hell. old airplane is not the reason behind airplane crash, but lack of maintainance, and goverment control on air safety law are very big reason behind airplane crash. people have a big voice in this matters, if you dont feel it is save, dont fly with it as in the end you pay for that flight. by paying you already in contract with the airline

Anonymous said...

Fly Lion Air once, and that will the the last time.

Thought it was a quality Singaporean airline, but realised it was a cheap Indonesian piece of shit.

The wings were all wobbling. It definitely could have structural issues that even maintenance couldn't solve.

I don't advise anyone to take Lion Air at all.

Anonymous said...

1 advise:
In Indonesia.
Quality = price however
Price <> quality.

Means if you want to have good quality products you have to pay the price.
But it doesn't mean you get good quality products if you pay the price.

Same thing happen with Adam Air.

Last December I was on holiday in Indonesia (yep 1 months before the Adam Air's accident).

I flew 6 flights in total. 1 time I flew with Lion Air and I was worried simply because Lion Air is one of the cheapest.

My friend keep saying how good Adam Air is because they are simply cheaper than Garuda but more expensive compare others.

The accident proved that even when you pay the price you won't get the quality so becareful.

It is all because of the "KKN" and those stupid faking people who just want to earn "money".

Adam Air should CLOSE their faking business simply because they had that accident.

To management of Adam Air, Lion Air and all of those companies who have had accident:

Please stop doing business. You have killed people and you will kill more. Yes you were, are and always be KILLERS, MURDERER!!

temen adam said...

aku dulu bekas teman adam di santa monica college.

sangatlah disayangkan kalau orang seperti adam menjadi budak dari agung laksono. POOR Adam!!
Adam air itu tempat cuci duitnya (money laundry) agung laksono.

Can we shut down the airlines? I dont think so, since its so easy to make an airlines in indonesia. Maybe later we can see either laksono air or dave air or maybe sandra ang air?

Ingat: Penerbangan murah... Nyawa murah!

Anonymous said...

Awesome Article...!!! And seems the discussion is on fire here...

* a few months ago I ever received email from somebody that contains part of your articles.

* I fly with Local Airlines quite often... but never thinking about airplane age, Human (Pilot) error, etc... Your article really open my mind... (eventhough my friend keep telling me, Just fly with Garuda please..)

Well... Basically... you are a great Writer Marek!!!

TQ & Rgds, Sisca

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Thanks, but honestly I think my writing is still far from being anyhow great hehe.

Nazar Ridha said...

life or death comes from the God not from airline. Even if you fly with new plane, the crash is possible to happen.

pukeko said...

It's good to see a few people have pointed out that it's not the aircraft’s age, but the maintenance that is the consideration for crashes. It's always a shame to hear older planes being run down as being unsafe. In the last few years, there have been a number of Boeing 737 crashes, many of these were later series jobs, (and look how many modern airbuses have crashed) while I know of one of the first to ever 737s for in my country (New Zealand) that was still flying up until 2 years ago, then 37 years old but still doing her job fine! I happen to like the classic 737-200s and others that revolutionised flying, and are a reminder of the better days of commercial flying, and its a shame when people say these things all over, in hope to hasten their removal, when really its all due to lack of maintenance. If they are properly looked after, it doesn’t matter if they are high cycle, as long as the maintainer standards are high. With wiring issues, yes, that can become a problem, but they can be re-wired. there's nothing that can't be taken apart repaired or replaced. I have to agree Adam Air is obviously very lapse. right now I'm planning to go to Indonesia and fly on some good old series 200s, still giving sterling service. I’m tired of the same boring modern stuff seen everywhere. I don't feel I have my life to fear for, in doing so, but I might give Adam Air a miss! Then I shall be flying later with Biman Air, and enjoy some good old DC-10 flying.
New Zealand.

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