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Indonesian Government Suspends Budget Airline Because of Safety Concerns

The Indonesian government has suspended low-cost air carrier Adam Air, citing safety concerns. The budget carrier has been plagued accidents and mishaps in the last several years, as VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Jakarta.

Indonesia Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Erfan gave the news.

"The Adam Air has been grounded since last night at zero o'clock," he said. "The director general of civil aviation, the ministry of transportation, has sent a letter to the management of Adam Air that stated operations has already been suspended."

Adam Air has had a string of accidents, the last two years, including the 2007 crash that killed 102 people when one of its jets plunged into the sea off the coast of Sulawasi Island and last week, when a Boeing 737-400 skidded off the runaway at Batam Island Airport injuring several people.

Indonesia's airline industry has grown rapidly, in the last ten years, with dozens of new budget airlines emerging following deregulation of its airline industry in the 1990's.

But the growing number of airlines outpaced the supply of trained aviation professionals, adequate ground infrastructure and regulatory oversight, raising concerns about safety standards.

Last year's government review of all airline carriers concluded that none of the airlines, including the national carrier, Garuda, met all safety requirements.

Indonesia's airline disasters prompted the European Union to ban all of the country's airlines from its air space and the United States issued a warning to its citizens that all Indonesian airlines do not meet international safety standards

Transport ministry spokesman Bambang says Adam Air has three months to improve or its operating license will be permanently suspended.

"Director general of civil aviation found not comply from Adam Air, not comply in regulation, in safety of course," he said. "So the government give Adam Air three months for them to recover all the mistakes."

Adam Air founder Adam Suherman, whose family owns 50 percent of the company, announced this week the budget carrier had defaulted on its debt payments to plane leasing companies.

This prompted the two companies that control the other 50 percent of Adam Air to announce they are selling back their shares to Adam Air, citing financial mismanagement of the company.