Andrzej Jeziorski/JAKARTA

The head of Indonesia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission is pushing for the formation of a body, modelled on the US National Transportation Safety Board, to take control of air safety issues by 2004.

The move is being pursued in the wake of the much-criticised investigation into the crash of a SilkAir 737-300 in December 1997.

"I have the approval of the President [Bacharuddin Habibie] to set up an NTSB-like body in the country," says commission chairman Oetarjo Diran, who is in charge of the 737 investigation.

Diran expects to obtain a presidential decree for the formation of the body by the end of this year, but the deadline for appointing the board is subject to the stabilisation of Indonesia's troubled economy.

"I do not think we have a safety culture in Indonesia," he says. "We accept things more easily [than in the West].

"Westerners say you have to open up, you have to striptease in front of many people [when reporting on an accident]. I think if you do that here, people will be afraid to report."

Diran believes Indonesia will be forced to "adapt to the standards of the world", but this will take time because fear of loss of face, and religious fatalism about accidental death, are deeply ingrained into the national culture.

Diran has approached the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the US Federal Aviation Administration for help.

At the moment, the commission is attached to the Indonesian Government's Department of Communication. Diran says it has no budget and no permanent staff.

Diran has come under fire from lawyers and relatives of the SilkAir crash victims over the dearth of information about the investigation. One suspected cause of the crash is pilot suicide.

Diran denies obstructing justice by withholding the results of the investigation to date, saying he is following ICAO accident investigation procedures.

He claims that a press release and a recent briefing for next-of-kin meets ICAO requirements for an interim report on the investigation. Nothing further will be released until the inquiry is concluded. Even then, only a fraction of the report will be made public.

Diran admits that "human performance factors" and a possible uncommanded rudder deflection are the only two possible causes that have not been ruled out.

Source: Flight International