Two years ago, a Garuda Airlines 737 pilot botched a landing at Indonesia’s Yogyakarta airport. The plane crashed and 21 people were killed. Many more were injured.
Indonesia’s legal system focuses more on punishing the careless than on compensating the victims. So, yesterday, the pilot was found "guilty of negligence" and sentenced to two years in prison.
While criminalizing negligence might seem like the "right" thing to do, it just doesn’t work to improve safety. Indonesia’s abysmal safety record is proof.
The US legal system does not send careless pilots to jail. Instead, it requires the careless pilot’s employer to compensate the victims. The US system gives the airlines a monetary incentive to control the performance of their crews by training, evaluating and then retraining as necessary. And that is one reason why we have the safest airlines in the world.