Why we need a Flight Council

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Chappy Hakim

IO – The world of Indonesian aeronautics has undergone such prideful progress lately. Passenger growth rate spikes every year, at 10%-15%. Assessment of flight safety standards in Indonesia shows that we have exceeded the world’s average safety rate 2 years ago, making up for extremely low and shameful ratings that used to be consistent from 2007 onwards. We also see the inauguration of many new airports.

Despite such amazing achievement, we must still introspect to ensure that Indonesia becomes even more advanced, head and shoulders equal with other countries. There are still many challenges that our aeronautical world faces, among others the overcapacity of passengers in many airports; commercial civil flights still using Air Force airport facilities, such as those at Halim Perdanakusuma; the bankruptcy of pioneering airline Merpati Nusantara Airlines (MNA), as well as other issues that entangle flagship airline Garuda Indonesia, both of which are under State-owned Enterprise (Badan Usaha Milik Negara – “BUMN”) management; lack of competent pilots and flight HR; and insufficient infrastructures.

Unlike land and marine transportation, which have lasted for thousands of years so that experts and professionals are available everywhere. Air transportation is still in its infancy. There are still too few people who still have not mastered flight issues, specifically its strong relation to national security. Not many people understand that flight is more than mere commercial transportation of passengers and goods.

Aeronautical issues are not independent, because their management highly requires coordination between various ministries and interests. Therefore, in order to face flight issues in the future, it would be very efficient if we have a National Flight Council comprising of aeronautical experts and professionals. It would be very awkward, for instance, if the performance of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs gets interrupted because they must deal with pilot strikes.

One of the main cause of this mess is that not many young Indonesians are interested in aeronautics. Indonesia does not have sufficient aeronautic intellectuals. Therefore, we must admit the fact that we simply do not have enough people who master in, who are experts in, aeronautics. We absolutely need an Aeronautical Council.

The Growth of Air Transportation in Asia
Air transport in Asia Pacific grows rapidly nowadays, in line with the slowed down growth of the economy in America and Europe. Boeing, the great airplane manufacturer, notes that Asia has become the biggest, fastest-growing aviation market in the world: billions of passengers go to and from places in Asia every year. More than 100 million new passengers join the crowd every year.

Consequently, Asian airlines and airports grow rapidly, the highest in the world. The slow but sure growth rate is the effect of high economic growth rate and liberalization and deregulation in Asia. These causes are accompanied with the production of new, much more efficient planes, as well as improved business and marketing models in modern aeronautics.

Within the past few decades, the jet airplane armada in Asia has doubled in size, i.e. from a mere 2,900 to 5,850 commercial jet airplanes. The number of airlines that operate commercial jet airplanes grew rapidly from 150 to 225 airlines. Furthermore, the capacity of all airlines in Asia record positive growth of 7% every year. The number of flight routes in Asia also increased significantly at 57%, i.e. from 2,200 routes to 3.800 routes.

More than 25% of the average growth rate in Asia occurs in Indonesia and around ASEAN. This is not a question at all, if we note how much flight slots have multiplied in Indonesia. The growth of commercial civil flight slots has exceeded the capacity of available service according to the standards of this country’s flight HR and infrastructures. This is why commercial civil flight slots are frequently delayed in daily flight operations, and why it permeates shamelessly into military flight facilities, which should have been reserved for national security issues.

It may seem to be “ordinary course of business” at a glance, but this situation has long-term impacts that would definitely harm the nation’s sovereignty in terms of maintaining the State’s security. It is high time for all of us to try and find the best resolution to be taken, instead of merely continuing to blow up flight slots and pander to those who only care for financial profit.