Flying High
    Category: Improving Education By : Renjani Puspo Sari Read : 1234 Date : Monday, March 02, 2015 - 20:01:54

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    As a reminder, Yudhi Sari Sitompul, head of the Indonesian State Aviation School (STPI), always repeats the same message: “The sky is a vast place but there is no room for error.” This quote is actually written on the welcome-box of Budiarto Airport, a special airfield for pilot students in Tangerang. Yudhi says flying is never free from risks, especially when pilots meet unpredictable turbulence, such as what many believe downed the AirAsia plane last December.
    These risks can be minimized, she says, if pilots follow procedure, such as doing a briefing before taking off, and checking the route, the weather, navigation tools, and their own health. “Pilots may be familiar with the route, but they ought not to be lax. They should regularly check and doublecheck,” she says.  

    She mentions her school is quite tight on graduating pilots, as the aviation industry requires a high safety standard. Each year, for example, around 170 pass from a total 300 students. It’s not only a matter of passing the technical assignments but they must also have good attitude, good health and complete a minimum of 210 flying hours.    

    Established in 1952 by the former President Sukarno, STPI Curug (previously named the Indonesia Flight Academy or API) is currently the oldest and the largest pilot school in Indonesia, out of 22 private and one other public school. It accepts at least 2,000 applicants every year. Aside from its quality, the affordable tuition fee is probably one reason for its popularity. Private schools charge Rp 650 million for two years study. “Our students have to pay the full tuition fee, maybe around Rp 400 million per student. There’s an exception for prospective students from poor families, they will get scholarship.” Yudhi explains, noting the fee used to be Rp 100 million or less before the fees were raised this year. She says STPI has special restrictions, such as limiting applicants’ age to 23 years. Private schools, in contrast, don’t have an age limit.

    Indonesia’s aviation industry is entering a new era this year with the implementation of the ASEAN Open Sky policy, which will allow many more international flights between ASEAN members. Yudhi says local professionals must be ready to compete when the Open Skies policy is implemented.   

    According to Yudhi, every year about 70 new aircraft have been launched here from various airlines, which need about 700 new pilots. Globally, the rise of discount airlines has created huge demand for new pilots around the world. Unfortunately STPI and the private pilot schools are only able to produce a maximum of 200 pilots a year, so the gap must be filled with foreign pilots. “With the implementation of the ASEAN community, professionals from neighboring countries may work here. There will be more foreign pilots coming in. So, we should really be ready,” she says.
    She says in anticipation of the influx of foreign labor, Yudhi has already made an approach to many local airlines, such as Garuda, Lion, Sriwijaya and others, to encourage them to give priority to domestic graduates first. She is proud that Garuda Indonesia hires the most STPI graduates of any airline. “Actually, every graduate definitely has an international standard certificate that can be used to apply to any airline. But our school will continue to try to establish a relationship with many companies so that our graduates’ job opportunities will be bigger,” she says.