Sriwijaya Air disaster: How safe are our skies? — Muhammad Ruhaizat Mohd Roni and Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli

Monday, 25 Jan 2021 10:35 AM MYT

JANUARY 25 — Air transport has contributed significantly in making the world more globalised. The rapid development of air transportation has transformed human civilisation to become what it is today.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak hit Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur was repeatedly recognised by various travel magazines as one of the most visited cities on the planet. Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), Air Asia, Malindo Air are among the nation’s most celebrated airlines. Like other industries, Covid-19 has brought this industry to a halt causing retrenchment of countless airline staff and staggering cancellations of scheduled flights all around the globe.  

Despite the pandemic, the world still depends on the aviation industry for various economic purposes. While the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has established rules for safety of maritime transport, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), on the other hand, has underlined a number of regulations to promote safety in air transport.

The recent Sriwijaya Air Disaster posed a question — how safe are our skies?

MH370 & MH17

In 2014, the world has witnessed a number of tragedy involving MAB, namely the disappearance of MH370 and the downing if MH17. MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, was reported missing on March 8, 2014 and disappeared without trace until today.

A couple of months later, MH17 was shot down when flying over Ukrainian airspace from Amsterdam to its purported destination, Kuala Lumpur. All 298 passengers on board MH17 perished.

Former CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Tony Tyler contended that there was a need to take steps and initiative in reducing the risk of aircrafts flying over the conflict zone within the Ukrainian airspace, a treacherous yet busy air route connecting Asia and Europe. 

Sriwijaya Air SJ182 disaster

While nations of the world were busy combating Covid-19, the aviation industry was gobsmacked by the calamity that befell the doomed aircraft that crashed into the depths of the Java Sea. The aircraft had, earlier that day, flew from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Belitung Islands and subsequently from Jakarta to Pontianak in Kalimantan.

The aircraft was scheduled to fly again to Pontianak from Jakarta at 2pm bringing 62 passengers on board including 12 crew members. Nevertheless, heavy squalls near Jakarta’s main airport had delayed the flight for about half hour from the original time of departure.

The ill-fated flight finally departed for Pontianak at 2.36pm. Four minutes later, it lost contact with the airport control tower and believed to have plunged into the Java Sea near Kepulauan Seribu. The Black Box of SJ-182 were retrieved a couple of days after the crash.

Ensuring flight safety

This incident has drawn the attention of many parties particularly the ICAO. The government involved in such accidents may co-operate with ICAO via Annex 13 involving Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation.

Annex 13 allows the ICAO to become an observer in the investigation processes pertaining to the crash. Nations that are involved in the investigation may prepare initial reports relevant to the air disaster. The final report could be issued after all investigations involving the Sriwijaya Air crash is completed to unearth the mystery behind the deadly tragedy.

The findings made in the report could be used to further enhance air safety regulations in ensuring such incidents would never take place again.


Continuous efforts have to be undertaken by all parties, particularly the ICAO, the IATA and airline companies to guarantee that the aviation industry remains safe, efficient and sustainable.

Although this recent crash took place in Indonesia, the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) must take heed of the disaster so that such catastrophe could be avoided at all costs. It is suggested that airline companies take extra initiative towards improving safety of flight operations and inspection of aircrafts are undertaken regularly. The well-trained air crews should always equip themselves with physical and mental strength as they are the backbone of the safety of the aviation industry.

How safe are our skies — it is up to us to decide on this.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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