Indonesia to ban worn-out jetliners after series of air crashes

Indonesia is planning to ban local carriers from operating jetliners more than 10 years old as part of a safety campaign following a string of crashes and accidents, the government said Wednesday.

The plan is likely to be unpopular with Indonesia's booming airline industry. Most experts say that maintenance of a plane and the number of takeoffs and landings it has performed - not its age - are the most important factors in preventing accidents.

It may also force some out of the more than 20 Indonesian airlines out of business or into mergers with rivals, an aviation analyst said.

"The main thing is we need a renewal of our fleet," said Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa after a Cabinet meeting held on board the presidential train - a decision taken to highlight the government's concerns on transport safety after several bloody accidents on air, land and sea.

Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said the proposed regulation, which Rajasa said would not need parliamentary approval, would ban "all jets used for commercial purposes" that were over 10 years old.

Rajasa - who has been under pressure to resign following the accidents - said the government was also planning a ban on old ferries, but gave no more details.

On Jan. 1, a 17-year-old jetliner crashed into the sea in eastern Indonesia, killing all 102 people on board. Last week, a 12-year-old plane operated by the same budget airline had a hard landing, buckling its body.

Neither official said when the proposed ban would be implemented.

Policy announcements by Indonesian government ministers frequently come to nothing or end up being watered down.

Currently, the age limit for planes in Indonesia is 20 years.

Tengku Burhanuddin, secretary general of the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association, said the body had yet to be informed of the plan.

"We want to know what the reasons for this are," he said.

Aviation analyst Dudi Sudibyo said the average age of Indonesia's more than 300 jets was around 10.5 years, meaning massive investment in the industry would be needed if the plan was enforced, the AP reports.

"(Rajasa) has been too quick in taking action and had not calculated what the industry needs," he said. "The age of a plane is not the only measurement of its safety."

He said however that forcing the airlines to modernize their fleet would likely lead to a much needed consolidation of companies.

"What Indonesia needs is five or 10 big airlines, not the 23 there at the moment," he said.

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