Aviation academies aim sky high
BEING A PILOT HAS BECOME VERY APPEALING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, BUT NOT MANY OF THEM ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO ENTER FLYING SCHOOL
The perceived glitz and the glam of a pilot’s life can be incredibly seductive for young minds — and useful for a government that is attempting to boost the number of homegrown pilots to meet demand from the growing aviation sector.
The increase in the number of air carriers, especially budget carriers, in recent years has resulted in a sharp increase in demand for pilots in the country. According to a Transportation Ministry estimate, with annual aviation industry growth between 10 and 15 percent, Indonesia needs at least 600 fresh pilots a year.
Flying schools are mushrooming across the country. Aviation schools in Indonesia offer courses for Private Pilot Licenses (PPL), Commercial Pilot Licenses (CPL) and the additional Instrument Rating (IR) for prospective pilots who wish to meet international standards.
Several schools also offer a Multi-Engine Rating (ME). The required flight hours range from 50 to 100, depending on the license, in addition to several months of ground schooling and simulator training.
While figures vary, the Transportation Ministry’s website cites there are 16 aviation schools across the country, including the prestigious state-owned Indonesian Aviation Institute (STPI) in Curug, Banten.
Established in 1952, STPI is one of the oldest aviation schools in Asia and has five teaching fields that accommodate a maximum of 200 pilots each. The academy accepts around 120 students each year. Other notable aviation schools include the Bali International Flight Academy and Alfa Flying School. Being a pilot has become very appealing for young people, but not many of them are lucky enough to enter flying school, not only because the schools lack capacity, but also because they are very expensive.
Students pay at least Rp 90 million (US$6,800) for two years of training at the state-owned STPI. That is quit cheap compared to between Rp 400 million and Rp 600 million students have to pay at private flying schools.
PT Mitra Aviasi Perkasa CEO Septo Sudiro, who is himself passionate about flying, said demand for new pilots had decreased to around 400 this year, partly due to consolidation in the aviation industry.
However, he saw increased interest from high school graduates wishing to enter, due to the hefty starting salary promised to be around Rp 20 million to Rp 25 million. His aviation school, Perkasa Flight School, has produced 87 pilots since it was established in 2013, and enrolment is increasing every year.
Up to 60 percent of enrolling students had relatives who are certified pilots, while the remaining either had childhood dreams of becoming a pilot or were tempted by the prospective salary, he said.
“There were 98 students in 2015 and around 70 students in 2014. This year, we are targeting to accept 120 students, as we will be opening an international class for prospective students from the Middle East, India and ASEAN countries to enroll,” he told
The Jakarta Post recently. Septo, whose father was a certified pilot, said the number of students accepted to Perkasa Flight School was limited to 120, because the academy currently had only 20 aircraft, consisting of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, the Piper Warrior and the Piper PA-44 Seminole. “However, we plan to buy 10 more planes this year so that we can become one of the largest aviation schools in the country. We plan to buy the 2006-2007 models of the Piper Archer III,” he said.
Perkasa Flight School has four training bases: Tunggal Wulung Airport in Cilacap, Central Java; Nusawiru Airport in Pangandaran, West Java; Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands; and HAS Hanandjoeddin Airport in Tanjung
Pandan, Bangka Belitung.
Approximately 95 percent of students at the school make it through to graduation, and Septo said many found jobs with carriers under the Lion Group — such as Lion Air, Batik Air and Wings Air — and airline Sriwijaya Air.
Despite the government’s insistence that there was rising demand for pilots in the aviation sector, Deraya Flight School’s public relations officer, Eka A. Clausen, said in reality many domestic airlines were closing their doors to fresh graduates.
Eka explained that in the past couple of years, several local airlines had shut down due to bankruptcy or had reduced the number of new pilots they accept. Furthermore, many local airlines now had their own pilot schools, such as Lion Group’s Angkasa Aviation Academy, and prioritized hiring in-house graduates.
“Second, the number of private aviation schools has skyrocketed, which means there are many more graduates than ever before. In the past, all graduates from private aviation schools would get jobs, but in the past two years, there has been less recruitment,” the Deraya Flight School spokesperson said.
Deraya Flight School is one of the oldest private aviation schools in the country, established in 1972, with training bases at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta and Adi Sumarmo Airport in Solo.
The school boasts 16 aircraft and a Frasca 142 flight simulator, alongside 28 certified flight instructors. The academy also prides itself on its 20-month course to ensure well- qualified graduates, much longer than the typical 12-month course at other schools.
Thirty students have graduated from Deraya Flight School recently, most of them moving on to work for Garuda Indonesia, airlines under the Lion Group or air ambulances or working as instructors at the academy. Only 10 of the graduates had not found jobs yet, either by choice or due to decreasing demand, Eka said.
Previous graduates had also moved on to work for international charters, such as Hong Kong Airlines, Qatar Airways and USbased nonprofit air medical service Calstar in California and northern Nevada.
Furthermore, Eka acknowledged that the number of high school graduates aiming to enter aviation schools had decreased in the past two years. She explained that from 2012 to 2014, Deraya Flight School had accepted approximately 70 to 100 students annually, a number that had drastically dropped to 50 to 60 students per year since 2015.
“There may be several factors that have contributed to this decreasing number. First, a lot of parents may be reconsidering the prospect of sending their child to an aviation school due to the large number of accidents in the past few years,” she said.
Eka also cited the steep tuition fees due to the depreciation of the rupiah against the US dollar. Currently, prospective students must pay an administration fee of Rp 6 million — which includes the application for a Student Pilot License (SPL) — and a fee of Rp 14 million for the flight aptitude test. Additionally, students have to pay between Rp 295 million to Rp 772 million for tuition, depending on the license they want to obtain at the end of the course.
Guiding: Hery Frianto, the owner of Simulator Dirgantara Indonesia (SDI), guides one of his students during a lesson at the SDI flight simulator center in Cipondoh, Tangerang, Banten. Hery has a number of aircraft simulators including a Cessena 172SP Skyhawk and Boeing 737 NG. Antara