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Indonesia eyes ageing planes

Published: 11:16PM Wednesday February 28, 2007 Source: Reuters

Indonesia is considering slashing the age limit on leased commercial passenger planes to 10 years to modernise its ageing fleet and improve safety, the transport minister was quoted by Antara news agency as saying.

The Southeast Asian country has suffered a string of recent air and maritime accidents, which have been partly blamed on its often shoddy and ageing infrastructure.

"Our commercial aircraft are 20 years old. We will modernise, rejuvenate our aircraft by enacting an age limit on aircraft of  10 years old," Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa was quoted as telling reporters in Cirebon in West Java province on Wednesday.

He said that at the time of leasing the plane should be no more than 10 years old, Antara reported.

However, Hatta emphasised that the issue was still being discussed and would need to be ratified by ministerial decree.

"It is an important thing for passengers' safety and comfort. Moreover, the economic limit age for aircraft is 20 years."

Hatta said that currently the age limit was 35 years or 70,000 landings, Antara reported.

The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under pressure to improve the country's poor transport safety record after a plane accident and two ferry disasters in the space of about two months.

A 17-year-old Boeing 737-300 operated by budget carrier Adam Air carrying 102 people disappeared on New Year's Day and is believed to have crashed into the sea off Sulawesi island.

The government also grounded Adam Air's six remaining Boeing 737-300s last week for safety checks after one of its aircraft cracked during a hard landing.

But the proposed age limit on planes could be difficult in to enforce in practice since many of the aircraft operating in Indonesia are well over 10 years old.

Air travel in Indonesia, home to 220 million people, has grown substantially since the liberalisation of the airline industry after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

The transport minister was also quoted on Elshinta radio's website as saying that the age of ferries should be limited to 20 years and trains 40 years.