Following a security breach at the Pekanbaru airport in Riau on Tuesday when a man managed to sneak into a plane and fly 949 kilometers while crouching in the wheel well, the Transportation Ministry has prompted state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II (AP II) to immediately remove its general manager and security official from their posts on account of negligence.
Transportation Ministry director general for air transportation Suprasetyo said on Wednesday that the ministry also recommended AP II improve its security at the Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II International Airport by installing CCTV cameras and higher fences to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
"AP II should carry out the recommendations given by the airport authority following the audit in 2014, including to conduct a patrol every time a flight is taking off," Suprasetyo said during a press conference.
According to Suprasetyo, 21-year-old student Mario Steven Ambarita told investigators that he did the stunt in order to see his idol President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in Jakarta. Mario had tried to trespass on Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, on March 19, but failed because of the airport's stricter security system.
AP II president director Budi Karya Sumadi admitted that the airport operator should be held responsible for the incident.
"This incident is our mistake. On behalf of the board of directors, I am responsible for the incident," Budi said. "We will improve our management and communication process at the field," he continued.
While Mario seemed motivated simply to carry out a sensationalist stunt, since afterwards on his Facebook page he reportedly expressed his satisfaction for having been able to "gain popularity", the incident has again put the country's air transport safety standards under the spotlight as the student had entered a loosely guarded runway through the airport's cargo terminal and then run to the Garuda Indonesia Boeing 737-800 while it was making its final preparations for take-off.
Mario had learned from the Internet and by observing departing aircraft at the airport for several days that they would pause briefly before accelerating for take-off.
Garuda's senior public relations manager Ikhsan Rosan said the airport's runway area was beyond the surveillance of the airline's staff.
"If the man jumped to the plane while the aircraft was still on the apron, then we will share the responsibility along with AP II, since we have our staff working at the area for ground-handling services," Ikhsan told The Jakarta Post.
"This man, however, jumped while the aircraft was already at the end of the runway and ready for take-off. That is beyond our surveillance," he continued.
Mario was found on the apron of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Tangerang, Banten with a bleeding ear and other light injuries before being rushed to a clinic.
The Transportation Ministry's civil servants investigator (PPNS) sub directorate head Rudi Ricardo said that Mario faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a maximum fine of Rp 500 million (US$51,500) for violating Article 435 and an additional Rp 100 million fine for violating Article 421.
The head of House Commission V overseeing transportation and infrastructure, Fary Djemi Francis, said that the ministry should suspend both the airport authority head and the general manager of SSK II airport.
Following the incident, Mario was named as a suspect for violating Law No. 1/2009 on civil aviation, Article 421 and 435, for entering a restricted area and endangering flight safety.
This is not the first time that a man managed to take a free ride in an aircraft's wheel well.