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A Closer Look at Lion Air JT-610 Tragedy from a Legal Perspective

Concern over the tragedy of Lion Air JT-610 which fell on 29 October 2018 and deep sympathy from every component of the nation may be a source of consolation and strength for the families left behind. We continuously pray and hope for the best success of the evacuation team in performing their duty. As a  lawyer experienced in dealing with aviation problems, the author intends to share his knowledge about flight safety and security in the expectation that the public will obtain comprehensive information and not be paranoid for traveling by airplane.

Regulations in Aircraft Manufacturing Countries 

Safety and security are the most important factors in the aviation industry. The regulation that contains requirements and conditions in order for an aircraft to be operated is comprehensive and detailed. The manufacturing company of Lion Air JT-610 is a company from the UnitedStates who has strict regulations related to aviation. To our knowledge, before given a permit to operate, the aircraft engines must have been declared eligible for airworthiness according to civil aviation safety regulations. The machine is planned, designed, manufactured, and inspected based on Federal Aviation Regulation (“FAR”) and after fulfilling the airworthiness requirements, a Type Certificate is issued for that engine. The Issuance of Type Certificate must go through a long, strict and comprehensive inspection and testing process by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) based on FAR. Further inspections are also performed periodically by the FAA to ensure that the engine design remains airworthy. If the aircraft is to be exported outside the United States, the FAA must first check and certify the aircraft is safe and airworthy by issuing an Export Certificate of Airworthiness. Based on the above explanation, it appears that the United States Government is paying serious attention to aircraft produced in its country with the intention to minimize the level of accidents caused by inadequate aircraft conditions.

Regulations in Indonesia

Aircraft from abroad purchased by Indonesian airlines are required to go through an inspection before it can be operated in the territory of Indonesian. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation must examine the airworthiness of an aircraft based on the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations which are almost entirely adopted from the FAR. If an aircraft passed the inspection, the Directorate will issue a Letter of Acceptance and a Standard Airworthiness Certificate, which will be valid for a certain period of time. The purpose is that the airline continues to carry out regular services, maintenance and repairs to the aircraft, including the aircraft engines. Therefore, apart from the ongoing aircraft incidents, it is also necessary to acknowledge that the Government of Indonesia has made the best effort in maintaining the safety of the flight.

Determination of Airworthiness Standards

Regarding the determination of airworthiness standards for aircraft, and/or aircraft engines, and/or aircraft propellers registered in Indonesia, it can be said that this is done by taking into account at least the design and construction, main components, propulsion installation, stability and capability, structural fatigue, equipment, operating restrictions, maintenance systems, prevention of environmental pollution (Article 8 paragraph 1 of Government Regulation No. 3 Year 2001 concerning Aviation Security and Safety). Hence, the best effort to support flight security and safety has been regulated in detail in Indonesian law and regulations. Then, why do aircraft accidents still occur? There are other reasons for accidents, for example, operational reasons such as lack of fuel, crashing into certain objects such as animals crossing the runway and terrorist attacks. Therefore, an aircraft accident must not only be caused by the condition of the aircraft and its engine.

Liability of Air Transport Carriers

Law No. 1 Year 2009 concerning Aviation (“Aviation Law”) basically imposes liability to the airline in the event of passengers incident in civil flight. Such liability can be seen in Articles 141 – 149 of the Aviation Law. Article 141 paragraph (1) Aviation Law states:

Any carrier shall be liable for indemnity for death of passengers, permanent defects, or injuries caused by incidents onboard the aircraft and/or while getting on or off the aircraft.

In its elucidation, Article 141 paragraph (1) Aviation Law explains that:

What is meant by “air transportation incident” is an incident solely related to air transportation.

What is meant by “permanent defect” is a loss or causing dysfunctional of one part of the body or affecting one’s normal activities such as the loss of arm(s), leg(s), or eye(s), including mental defect(s) as stipulated under the law and regulations on insurance business field.

Furthermore, regarding the amount of compensation, the airline has the obligation to provide compensation of IDR 1,250,000,000 (one billion two hundred and fifty million Rupiah) to the heirs of each passenger who died and to the passenger who disabled due to the aircraft accident (Article 3 of Ministry of Transportation Regulation No. 77 Year 2011 concerning Responsibilities of Air Transport Carrier). This amount is certainly not to replace lost human lives but as an obligation imposed by the state to the airlines. For lost baggage, the amount of compensation is IDR 200,000 (two hundred thousand Rupiah) for each kilogram and a maximum of IDR 4,000,000 (four million Rupiah) for each passenger (Article 5 of Ministry of Transportation Regulation No. 77 Year 2011 concerning Responsibilities of Air Transport Carrier). Based on the author’s observation, in the event of an aircraft crash in Indonesia, if a passenger dies, more heirs choose to receive compensation from the airline even though there are also heirs who filed a lawsuit in court. For heirs who decide or choose to receive compensation, it is necessary to prepare supporting documents such as Identity Card, Family Registry, Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Death Certificate from victims and Heir’s Certificate. These documents are intended to ensure that they are legally the heirs of passengers who died in an aircraft crash.

Thus this article was made based on the best knowledge and experience of the author, the author once again conveys a deep sense of concern to the family members left behind.

Hope this will be useful,

FREDRIK J. PINAKUNARY LAW OFFICES


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