Indonesia Seeks To Toughen Rules on Contracting Foreign Pilots

 - November 20, 2018, 9:39 AM

Indonesia’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) plans to be more stringent about allowing the country’s airlines to hire foreign pilots in the wake of the recent Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crash. According to Robi Ihsan, a senior official at MOT in Jakarta, the authority will review the current hiring process for foreign pilots and requirements of each airline. He said the criteria will have to be enhanced depending on the aircraft type, though concrete details about the criteria under consideration are not yet available.

Certain Indonesian carriers’ requirement for the position of captain is only 1,000 flight hours while that for a copilot is 250 to 500 hours.

The captain of Lion Air flight JT610, which plummeted into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta October 29, was a 31-year-old Indian national with 6,000 flight hours. The first officer, an Indonesian, was 41 with more than 5,000 flight hours.  

“We are not saying that the crash was a human error, but it is an eye-opener for the authorities, and we also have to ensure that pilots with the required experience and number of flight hours are hired for the job,” Ihsan noted.

Ihsan acknowledged that in the past there were cases of several foreign pilots who forged reports about their flight hours record. This has prompted the airlines to scrutinize every entry in pilots' logbooks and verify them before they are hired. 

MOT officials declined to reveal how many foreign pilots were involved and from where they originated.

Currently, there are 20 airlines including freighters and charters operating across Indonesia, a stark contrast to the 66 in 2007, before local authorities came down hard on carriers with safety oversights and ordered airlines with fewer than five aircraft to merge or cease operations.

Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets. According to local airlines’ estimate, Indonesia will require about 5,300 new pilots between 2019 and 2023.

The 16 flight schools remaining in the country can turn out an estimated 800 graduates every year. “As such, airlines will have to resort to hiring experienced foreign pilots,” Ishan said, adding that the shortage is a global issue.

During a crackdown on 18 flight schools early this year, eight were found to be lacking in their training. Two were closed while six were told to improve.

The Lion Air crash is the second fatal accident in the country since December 2014, when an AirAsia Indonesia Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea off Borneo shortly after takeoff from Surabaya with no survivors.