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Published on Thursday, December 6, 2007

Lost: One aircraft wing. Only one owner

JAKARTA – For the second time in a matter of weeks, an Indonesian plane has lost part of a wing but this time authorities are having trouble identifying the culprit.

In the latest incident a three-metre piece of a plane's wing has been found on a runway in Jakarta, two weeks after a chunk of wing fell off a passenger plane as it took off from Sukarno-Hatta international airport.

No airline operator had reported the part missing since its discovery on Tuesday on a runway serving Jakarta's domestic terminal, said Wahyu Supriantono, chairman of the Indonesian Aircraft Technicians Association.

"From the serial number printed on the piece, we know that it is a part of the wing but we cannot trace the owner of the plane with the number," Supriantono said.

It was unclear whether it came from a passenger or cargo plane.

Two weeks ago, a chunk of wing dropped off an Indonesian passenger plane carrying 144 people minutes after take-off from Jakarta, forcing the pilot to turn back.

Although the plane operated by Batavia Air landed safely, the incident sparked fresh concerns about the safety of flying in Indonesia following two major air accidents this year.

The part of that aircraft was later found near the airport and Supriantono said that six engineers had been suspended over the incident.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has yet to give Indonesia’s airlines a clean bill of health following the latest probe into the country’s aviation sector.

The EU reviewed the results of a six-man team sent to Indonesia to audit safety of domestic carriers.

Placing much of the blame on Indonesia's civil aviation authority, EASA called for a complete reorganisation, with sufficient resources and political commitment to ensure the government is competent to oversee 42 air operators.

EASA concluded, "It's obvious that today it cannot...so the decision was taken that the entire fleet from Indonesia will remain on the blacklist."

In reaching its decision to continue its negative review of Indonesian air operations, the EU exchanged notes with the Australian Civil Aviation Authority and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration who reportedly supported the EU view that the administration of Indonesian flight operations still suffered from major weaknesses.

Preliminary results for this calendar year from the International Air Transport Association show an accident rate globally of 0.9 aircraft losses for every million flights, up from 0.65 for 2006.

Crashes in Indonesia, including the fatal accident at Yogyakarta in March, pushed the Asia-Pacific rate up to 3.27 losses for every million flights.

IATA director-general Giovanni Bisignani described the result as "a big step backwards". He said some areas were doing well and there had been no accidents in the Middle East or North Africa.

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