Indonesia narcotics chief blames pilots on drugs for crashes

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Most of Indonesia's airline accidents have involved pilots who tested positive for drugs, including a Lion Air jet that slammed into the sea four years ago while trying to land on the tourist island of Bali, the chief of the national narcotics agency said.

Budi Waseso made the comments Thursday at a ceremony on Bali to inaugurate traditional village security guards as anti-drug volunteers.

The comments are another blow to the image of the country's airline industry after a video circulated online last month showing an apparently intoxicated pilot in the cockpit of a Citilink passenger plane. News reports this week said two pilots of another airline, Susi Air, owned by the country's fisheries minister had recently tested positive for drugs.

"Almost all air accidents in Indonesia, whether it was just a skid or whatever, the pilots are indicated to be positive for drugs," Waseso told reporters.

Earlier in the day he told the event attended by Bali's governor that a Lion Air pilot in the spectacular 2013 crash had "hallucinated" that the sea was part of the runway.

His comments are at odds with other official accounts. After the crash, which miraculously caused no fatalities among the 108 people on board, the transport ministry said the pilots had not tested positive for drugs. The final report blamed the accident, which occurred in rain, on poor communication between the pilots and inadequate trading.

Lion Air, the National Transport Safety Committee and the Ministry of Transport declined to comment.

Indonesian airlines were previously barred from flying to Europe and the United States but foreign air safety regulators have upgraded the country, allowing some airlines to resume flights. The U.S. aviation regulator upgraded Indonesia's safety rating in August.

However, the International Air Transport Association's former chief executive, Tony Tyler, who stepped down in June, said in 2015 he was very concerned about airline safety in Indonesia. His comments reflected worries about rapid growth in the number of planes in the skies and the need to upgrade air traffic management systems.

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