The rapid growth in Southeast Asia’s airline industry is pressing need for reforms to the region’s fragmented safety framework, with a lack of streamlined standards on air navigation and staff training.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has no regional agencies overseeing aviation safety or co-coordinating air traffic control, unlike in the more developed European market. The issue has come to the fore after the Air Asia flight QZ8501from Surabaya to Singapore, carrying 162 people, crashed in the Java Sea in Dec 2014 shortly after the pilot requested to change altitude to avoid bad weather.
Though the cause of the crash is still unknown, aviation experts have seized on the incident to point to the region’s infrastructure suffering from congested skies and a patchwork of differing safety standards.
ASEAN is pushing ahead with plans to establish a single aviation market or “Open Skies” by 2015 that will allow its members’ airlines unfettered access to each other’s markets.
However the group, whose 10 member states range from developed Singapore to impoverished Myanmar, has made scant progress on adopting uniform technical and safety operating procedures.
Experts point to Europe as the model to follow, where the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) oversees the region’s safety standards and crew training, while Euro-control co-ordinates the region’s air traffic control. While Euro-control was established back in the 1960s, EASA was set up only in 2002 when the European Union was already a much more unified and better-funded bloc than ASEAN is today.