Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets, and its training industry is advancing in parallel. Chris Long reports from this developing country.

In recent years the specialists in the commercial aviation training world have focussed successively on the regions where the major aircraft orders have been placed. Where once the Gulf region was the immediate source of interest, attention moved to China, and then to Asia as a whole. The task to train for the incoming fleets in those markets continues, but the parallel demands of training to support the expansion of commercial flying in Indonesia has frequently been overlooked.

With a year-on-year underlying national economic growth of 6%, there is evidence to support the claim that Indonesia is the fastest growing aviation market in the world – and that inevitably means that there is a major training task to match that growth. There are some basic statistics to help understand the scale of that requirement; Indonesia is an archipelago of about 17,500 islands distributed across about 3000 miles. The population of just under 240 million people from a rich diversity of cultures is dispersed over about 6000 of these islands. Such a distribution means that surface transport falls short of matching the increasing travel demands of the 21st century.

Commercial aviation can provide an essential resource to encourage a wide range of economic and social development. One indicator of the present division of transport is that, according to some government sources, only six percent of the population has so far travelled by air. Recent record-breaking aircraft orders are an indication of the national intent to expand to match the demand generated by an increasingly large domestic travelling public. By 2021 this domestic market is forecast to grow from 60 million in 2011 to 180 million. Present plans anticipate the arrival of 900 new aircraft due over that timescale, and that points to a potential demand for about 800 new pilots a year.

Sourcing New Pilots

Within Indonesia the government infrastructure clearly allocates the responsibilities in addressing this requirement. One organisation, the Air Transportation Human Resources Development Centre (ATHRDC), an agency within the Ministry of Transportation, is headed up by Yudhi Sari, who explains that the role of that department is to identify the need, to scope the training tasks and to define the objectives to prepare aviation professionals for the full range of disciplines in the industry. It also has the responsibility of providing the training for all government employees in the aviation sector. The definition of the training packages is done in consultation with appropriate specialist governmental departments, training organisations and subject matter experts. The ATHRDC is the source for all the training material provided to the Approved Training Organisations (ATOs).

The role of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in training is to define and advise on regulatory requirements which must be satisfied before licence issue, and it also maintains oversight of the training process at the ATOs. An illustration of the way this works is that, for instance, Yudhi's team is working in conjunction with Boeing Flight Services to formulate a Multi-crew Pilot Licence (MPL) course. The DGCA will then have to approve that it conforms to ICAO and international licensing requirements.

The eventual aim is to source all pilots from within Indonesia, but at the moment many are recruited from overseas. This has sometimes proved to be problematic, as experience has shown that the quality of some of those expatriates, in particular low time pilots, falls well short of the essential skills necessary for commercial operation. To address this problem, in January 2013 the DGCA published a regulation which now requires a minimum of 250 hours on type for new foreign hires.

The present ab initio pilot training infrastructure in Indonesia consists of 15 ATOs, of which two are run by the ATHRDC. The theoretical combined maximum capacity of all the ATOs is 420 new pilots annually, but actually the throughput is less than that, so it would appear that there is a shortfall in matching the annual demand; for the moment the top up has to be solved through the continued recruiting of expat pilots. The common challenge of ATOs around the world is largely one of financing - both for the school itself to acquire modern equipment and, critically, for the student pilot who has to find his/her own funding. Indonesia is no different in this respect; however, some local issues have their own impact. For instance training aircraft bought from overseas are classed as “luxury items” and an import tax of 67% is imposed on them. This is itself a major barrier to updating the training fleets.

As elsewhere, there is a chronic shortage of suitable instructors – in a system largely based on FAA regulation, the pattern of gradually acquiring CPL/IR, Multi Engine Rating etc. leading to hours building until a job can be found with an airline, has resulted in the classic flow of young instructors to airlines as soon as the hiring starts, leaving a gap in the instructor teams. The concept of training to competency has not yet been embraced here, and there is huge pressure to provide training in the shortest time and at the lowest possible cost; consequently the quality of that training is not always certain.

Although at the moment no specific regulation exists for the provision of a MPL, that has become a clear objective of the ATHRDC, and as mentioned earlier, there is very close cooperation with Boeing and the DGCA to put such a programme in place. This would address the issue of competency right from the start and thus would provide a pipeline of national pilots directly to the airlines. Of course one of the challenges is to identify suitable and willing airline partners as part of that pattern, and there are signs that some of those are now being identified.

Planning Ahead There is recognition that there needs to be an expansion of the training capacity, and this is being led by the ATHRDC. It already administers six training organisations across the country (see illustration). A new training facility will be opened at Banyuwangi East Java and this will provide additional capacity. These academies provide training for maintenance teams, air traffic controllers, as well as the two schools ATOs which deliver ab initio pilot training. The ATC academy graduated 100 controllers last year, and the plans are to use good simulation and new methodologies to reduce the training time from the current diploma-based course duration of two years to about nine months of competency-based ATC training.

Until recently, a degree was an essential criterion for entry into the national training facilities. This has now been modified to allow new entries to compete in the selection processes without a degree. However they are encouraged to continue to work for a degree once they have completed their professional training.

The key to the new philosophy of training is to establish and maintain competency. One interesting initiative is the recruiting and sponsoring of student pilots from within the Ministry of Transportation. These selected candidates (this year 20 were chosen from a group of 100 volunteers), will be sponsored for the cost of the training, but will then have to take on the role of instructors for five years before being released to the airlines. This system has two advantages – it opens the door to employees who cannot afford training from their own resources, and also starts to build the number of instructors available to the ATOs. It is hoped that some of those who follow the pattern may well choose to stay with the ATOs to build up the cadre of professional instructors.

Private Initiatives

Whilst the government is taking action to ramp up training, there are also opportunities for private organisations to become involved. One example of this is the first independent training organisation in Indonesia which can provide pilot type rating and recurrent training. The Jakarta Aviation Training Center (JATC) was established in 2010 and became operational in January 2011. It is a joint venture, with Indonesian shareholders having a 51% interest, the remaining 49% being held by Sim-Industries (Lockheed Martin). So far two full flight simulators (FFS) manufactured in the Netherlands by Sim-Industries, have been installed; a Boeing 737NG and an Airbus A320. Stella Aviation, also based in the Netherlands, manages the training organisation and provides manuals, instructors and the administrative support. Andrew Chalmers, General Manager, says that the organisation has approval from the Indonesian DGCA as a training facility, as well as an EASA approval as a Type Rating Training Organisation (TRTO) through the Dutch national aviation authority. Whilst Indonesian airlines use this facility there is also a market for the self-sponsored students to get a well-recognised qualification, and the links to the local ATOs to encourage this flow are gradually opening up.

Training Rollout

Historically Indonesia has not had a strong culture of aviation training, but the recognition of the demand for quality training to cope with the increase in commercial aviation, has spurred both the government and private business to prepare modern training facilities and processes. The scale of demand is itself a challenge, and answering it will also require a change of approach and attitudes within the traditional training infrastructure. Training organisations have generally operated independently of each other, so there are obvious benefits in co-operating – perhaps through joint purchasing and sharing of best-practice training patterns.

Whilst school leavers close to the capital, Jakarta, may have an awareness of aviation as a career opportunity, that message does not necessarily reach to all the scattered cultures and populations within the Indonesian archipelago. One of the additional tasks of the industry is to raise the profile of aviation more generally to ensure a continuous stream of good candidates - one of the encouraging things is that the role of a pilot is still well regarded.

There is no doubt of the determination of government departments such as the ATHRDC and the initiative of the JATC to introduce methodologies and processes appropriate to the 21st century. These organisations have already embraced the principles of top-down safety culture and embedded safety management systems, together with competency-based training. There will no doubt be hurdles to overcome in order to spread this new culture more widely within commercial aviation in Indonesia, but already some airlines are enthusiastic about this change of philosophy, and have adopted best practice from the broader global aviation community.

Work in Progress

Indonesia is keen to match the global standards in training and operating in commercial aviation. The first steps to achieve this have already been taken, and the vision has been clearly established. It now falls to the talents of government, together with global and local expertise, to work together to guarantee the training necessary to ensure the safe and efficient introduction of the new aircraft fleets as they arrive.