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Editorial: Is Indonesia Well Served by Those in Charge of the Nation's Aviation Sector?
(8/3/2013) While many have lowered expectations when listening to the utterances of public officials, if press reports are correct, the CEO of State-owned PT Angkasa Pura II, Tri S. Sunoko, has plumbed new depths of doltishness with his recent public outbursts on his views on air gateway management.
Sunoko is in charge of PT Angkasa Pura II - the company managing major air gateways in Indonesia, including Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Widely quoted in the national Press, Sunoko’s comments were made in response to an announcement by Garuda Indonesia that it would need to delay the planned November launch of its new Boeing 777-300ER non-stop service between Jakarta and London until April 2014 due to runway problems at the Jakarta airport. The naivety and narrow-mindedness revealed by Sunoko's views were shocking, particularly coming from the man charged with the care and management of Indonesia’s main air gateway.
The delayed inauguration of the London service is blamed on the inability of the Jakarta airports's runway to support a fully loaded and fully fueled B777-300ER until improvements and upgrades are undertaken. Those upgrades are expected to be in place by April 2014 when Garuda says the non-stop Jakarta-London service can commence.
Sunoko’s peculiar opinion is that Garuda Indonesia had no business buying the latest generation of modern aircraft beyond the limited handling capacities of Indonesian airports. Sunoko said: “Somebody tell Garuda to buy airplanes that match the airport. Don’t buy a 21 square meter bungalow and then purchase large furniture.”
By extension, we presume Sunoko's pointed comments are also directed at worldwide aviation where an estimated 28 airlines operate 412 Boeing 777-300ER.
'Asal Jalan' Approach
'Defending the limited carrying capacity of Jakarta’s airport, Sunoko argues for a minimalist approach to aircraft operations, know in these parts as “asal Jalan” (as long as something works). Accordingly, he tried to partially mitigate his Neanderthal view of aviation saying that as long as Garuda operates their new aircraft at load levels of 70-80% the Jakarta airport would still be able to handle the B777-300ER flights.
Sunoko explained: “If we use it (Boeing 777-300 ER) once and while, we can do it. But if the plane is 100% full on a daily basis, we can’t do it every day. But because at 60% occupancy they turn a profit. With 70-80% occupancy our (present runway) is still capable (of handling the aircraft)."
While grudgingly admitting that Garuda has an excellent business plan, he complained that Garuda had failed to coordinate their business plans with the airport authorities. Continuing, Sunoko said: “They (Garuda) have good planning, but everything changed. There is a lack of coordination with the airport; a lack of discussion over cups of hot coffee with the directors of Angkasa Pura II.”
Sunoko, trying to regain ground, said steps to improve the current runway at Soekarno-Hatta were underway. Injections of materials into the existing runway have been ongoing since last year to improve the weight-bearing capacity of the landing strips.
But, if Sunoko’s comments have been accurately reported by the press, urgent attention is needed by the Minister of State-Owned Enterprise, Dahlan Iskan, to determine Tri S. Sunoko’s general suitability to manage the Nation’s main air gateway.
Garuda Indonesia placed it's inital order for its first four Boeing 777-300ER in February 2008 as part of the Airline’s critically important Quantum Leap Program. With both the Airline and the Airport forming part of the BUMN ministerial portfolio, its incredulous for Sunoko, or anyone else in Indonesian aviation circles, to claim surprise at the operating specifications of the aircraft. What's more, with 412 Boeing 777-300ERs in operation and 284 on order world-wide, Sunoko’s way of thinking will inevitably relegates Indonesia's airlines and airports to a second-tier status ;eaving Indonesia a destinationbypassed by many major airlines.
Following Tri Sunoko’s train of thought, arguing that people building ultra small houses have no business furnishing those houses with over-sized furniture, we also believe that Iskan as BUMN Minister should similarly avoid employing individuals with limited understandings of the demands of modern aviation to manage the Country's main airport.
It may, however, be unrealistic and naive on our part to expect the Minister to bring the vision and management skill needed to keep Indonesian aviation competitve. Minister Iskan, ultimately in charge of both Garuda Indonesia and PT Angkasa Pura, told the State News Agency Antara that he thinks Garuda should best concentrate on regional air routes, avoiding long-haul routes using Boeing 777-300ERs that put Jakarta’s second-class air gateways under pressure and in the spotlight.
Pak Iskan, side-stepping the real issue of confronting the policy failure inherent in the current imbroglio only guarantees that Indonesian airports will become non-competitive, causing the nation to miss its fair share of a propserous future predicated on a well-managed aviation sector.