Here's a rare piece of good news: Despite the tragic #SJ182 crash, air safety in Indonesia is rapidly improving.

The accident rate in 2018 and 2019 was *lower* than it was in the U.S. and EU:…
Indonesia has a terrible reputation for air safety. Its carriers were banned from Europe from 2007 to 2018 because standards were felt to be so lax.

But why was the ban lifted in 2018? Because standards are now a lot better. Image
When aviation was deregulated in the late 1990s after the Asian financial crisis and fall of Suharto, a huge number of dodgy small airlines opened, with regulation too lax to handle the vast growth in air traffic.

The result was a series of well-publicized disasters. Image
A lot of people saw this in, IMO, an essentialist and racist way: Indonesia has poor air safety because that's just the way things are in Indonesia, rather than because of specific regulatory problems the country was working on fixing.
I remember after the crash of Lion Air flight 610 in 2018, I got lots of emails blaming it on "Indonesian air safety".

IMO if this prejudice wasn't so widespread, people may have studied the 737 MAX's design problems before another 157 people were killed on ET302. Image
If you look at the metrics that @icao uses to assess the safety set-up of countries' aviation systems, Indonesia was by 2017 better than the world average on all but two measures: Image
There's one big reason that makes air safety in Indonesia harder than other countries: It's a huge, tropical, mountainous archipelago with very extreme weather.
That means flying is just fundamentally more risky than in many other places because bad weather is one of the biggest risks for flying.

This study last year found weather was a factor in 58% of crashes in Indonesia, compared to 8% in the U.S.:…
In addition, when you look at aggregate crash numbers you're often including some very remote places, where small turboprop planes are flying on underdeveloped routes between remote bush airstrips and rolling into the long grass counts as a reportable accident.
For instance, between 2010 and 2016 Papua (pop.: 4.3 million) accounted for as many accidents as Java (pop.: 145 million).
There's one genuine "cultural" issue that may still be causing problems: Poor teamwork and decision-making between aircrew was a factor in 74% of crashes in that study by Agus Pramono et al., even more than weather:…
A lack of respect for hierarchy and a habit of plain speaking can be important safety assets in a cockpit, where the co-pilot will often need to correct a more senior pilot who's making a mistake. Indonesia scores high on measures of respect for hierarchy:…
But I think this issue is easily overplayed, and can be solved with adequate training and experience.

Singapore and China both score equally highly on respect-for-hierarchy scores but have some of the world's best air safety records.
So, while this latest crash is clearly a tragedy, don't ignore the genuine progress Indonesia has made. Fixing air safety isn't easy, but this country appear to be well on the way to cracking it. (ends)

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More from @davidfickling

11 Jan
Was listening to @WesleyLivesay podcast on the rise of Mussolini while I did some housework.

One really telling thing is how important *impunity* was to the fascists' Proud Boys, the squadristi.
They weren't *that* numerous, but the reluctance of courts and police to punish their violence — even as they aggressively punished defensive counterviolence by socialists and anti-fascists — made it much more powerful.
Mussolini didn't seize power. He was handed power by a King who thought giving the fascists what they wanted when they marched on the capital was a better option than calling a state of siege and letting the influence of the left rise any further.
Read 4 tweets
9 Jan
So much commentary on Trump bans from social media seems to ignore that this is literally the "shouting fire in a crowded theatre" exception to freedom of speech.
Of course Twitter and Facebook, as private actors, can do what they want on their platforms without it infringing freedom of speech.

But clearly in their "public square" rhetoric they take the approach of supporting as much speech as possible.
But all but the very fringiest conceptions of free speech have always supported restraints in the event of imminent risk to the safety of individuals.

And Trump has been using his social media accounts to foment a putsch.

What's hard to understand about this?
Read 5 tweets
2 Jan
We all know about how "Advance Australia Fair" was first performed in the middle of a outbreak of race riots, right?
As @LukeLPearson points out here, the cosmetic change of one word is pretty pathetic.

But we've genuinely forgotten the context in which the song was written: an outbreak of anti-Chinese violence in 1870s Sydney, which ultimately led to Federation.

Here's the Sydney Morning Herald's account of its first performance on St. Andrews Day, 30 November 1878:…
Read 21 tweets
30 Dec 20
Here's a story about how a ship-eating clam helped bring about the Industrial Revolution: Image
The naval shipworm Teredo Navalis is an under-appreciated marker of globalization.

It's a type of highly adapted clam that bores into waterlogged wood using the remnants of its shell as a rasping saw: Image
No one is really sure where in the world it originated, but it seems clear it's an early example of a marine invasive species.

Its marine wood diet suggests that it evolved among mangroves, but we first find written references in ancient Greece where mangroves were absent: Image
Read 37 tweets
15 Dec 20
One other thing I'd point out with regard to this analysis is that much of it is just driven by the current account surplus.

Throughout 2009-2018, China reinvested a consistent 4%-7% of its BoP surplus in BRI projects.
Before 2009 of course the destination of choice for BoP surplus funds was U.S. Treasuries. 2019 clearly does break that trend too at ~0.75% of the BoP surplus going into BRI projects.
But the decline in 2018 was really pretty much in line with the previous decade. In fact a higher share of the surplus went to BRI that year than in 2015, when 4x the dollar amount was invested.
Read 6 tweets
15 Dec 20
Am I the only one who finds some of these 1960s numbers just ... not credible?

You see the UK, Spain and Denmark in 1965 spending less than an hour, between both parents, for *all* daily childcare tasks.
That to me looks like sampling bias of some sort, or maybe survey response changes such as whether you consider making dinner to be "childcare" or not. Perhaps also something to do with the decline of domestic service?
I don't want to look like a feckless parent, but did the average parent in Denmark in 1965 really spend no more than ~10 minutes a day "washing, feeding, preparing food, putting to bed, supervising and playing with children"?
Read 4 tweets

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