A commitment to building a safety culture has led to a drop in the number of incidents involving Garuda Indonesia, says a senior executive at the airline.
An important step the Indonesian flag carrier took was to push for staff to log reports when they spot hazards that could potentially pose risks to the carrier's operations, says Captain Novianto Herupratomo, Garuda's executive vice-president of operations, in a recent interview with Flightglobal Pro.
Previously, only about 250 hazard reports were logged annually. Since 2007, when the carrier emphasized the importance of such a reporting system, it has seen about 2,000 such reports annually.
"These are from pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and also our suppliers, which basically indicates that our safety culture has improved because they are able to identify hazards and also assess the risks. With these reports, we are able to manage the incident rate itself," says Novianto.
In 2000, Garuda's incident rate, measured as the number of incidents per 1,000 departures, stood at 1.23, he adds. Last year, the figure was 0.29.
"If you ask me in short what happened, I would say we managed to build a safety culture," says Novianto.
Some would say Garuda has come a long way. After all, the EU imposed a blanket ban on Indonesian airlines in 2007 after a series of fatal airline accidents. That was also the year a Garuda Boeing 737-400 crashed at Yogyakarta, killing 21 people.
Garuda has since worked with IATA and the country's DGCA to implement new safety best practices, put in place stricter reporting regimes, and ensured that maintenance arm GMF AeroAsia has world-class standards. In 2008, Garuda received the IATA operational Safety Audit Certificate and in 2009, the EU lifted its ban on the airline, together with that on Mandala Airlines, Airfast Indonesia and Premiair.
The majority of Indonesian carriers remain on the EU blacklist in the latest revision where Philippine Airlines and Venezuelan carrier Conviasa were removed.
Flightglobal's Ascend Online database shows that since 2000, Garuda has had seven aircraft incidents with two total losses, only two of which occurred over the last five years. Lion Air, the other major Indonesian player, meanwhile recorded 17 incidents with seven total losses over the same period.
European safety specialists have said that they will keep watch over the operations of Lion Air, after expressing concern over the experience levels of pilots at the rapidly expanding airline. Lion Air had told the air safety committee governing the European Commission's blacklist of banned and restricted operators that while it was able to obtain adequate resources to manage its fleet expansion, it accepted "minimum licensing requirements" for captains and first officers and "did not demand additional experience".
While regulations has it that a pilot must have a minimum initial operating experience of 75 flight hours, Novianto says Garuda sets its own standard at 300h.
In April, a Lion Air Boeing 737-800 crashed into the sea near Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, about 50m (164ft) short of runway 09. The impact led to the aircraft's fuselage breaking in two, between the wings and the tail.