Indonesia aims for aviation reform by year-end

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CANBERRA, Nov 2 (Reuters) Indonesia is aiming to complete an overhaul of its accident-prone airline industry by the end of 2008 and hopes to persuade the European Union to drop a ban on its carriers, the country's aviation chief said today.

After the crash of a Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737 at Yogyakarta airport in March, which killed 21 people, Jakarta embarked on a reform process to ensure better airline regulation.

''We need a strong regulator as well as operators. The legislation and organisation of our main focus areas should be finished by the end of 2008,'' Director-General of Civil Aviation Budhi Mulyawan Suyitno told an air safety conference in the Australian capital, Canberra.

The Yogyakarta crash came less than three months after an Adam Air plane disappeared with 102 passengers and crew on board.

The accidents prompted the European Union to ban all 51 Indonesian airlines, including Garuda, from its airspace on safety grounds, putting the Southeast Asian nation's air safety record under public scrutiny.

Suyitno, appointed after the Garuda crash, said Indonesia had since taken steps to improve air safety, signing an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, establishing an independent regulator and streamlining air traffic control.

The country was also working to boost skills and pay for airline industry workers, as well as set up an independent and capable accident investigator.

''A key part of our work is to change our culture from reactive and blame-culture to an open and transparent system,'' Suyitno said.

The EU will shortly send safety experts to Indonesia to review a ban on 51 Indonesian airlines, including national carrier Garuda, which have been barred from the bloc's airspace due to safety concerns.

No Indonesian airlines fly to the EU, but the ban obliges tourist agencies to warn customers that Indonesian airlines are unsafe if they sell package tours which use such carriers.

Suyitno said his officials were trying to convince the EU to drop the ban, telling Reuters ''we are changing right now, not only my organisation but all the operators and their safety culture''.

Air travel in Indonesia has blossomed since the liberalisation of the sector in 1999, but the rapid growth has raised questions over whether safety has been compromised.


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