Indonesia’s domestically driven economy is supporting the country’s airlines in expanding its fleet, although the Southeast Asian nation needs to accelerate its push to groom more pilots, Indonesia National Air Carriers Association said Wednesday.
The Association forecast the number of fleets will grow by 8 percent annually from 707 aircraft at the end of 2011 as demand picks up against the backdrop of relatively robust economic growth. Indonesia’s economy expanded 6.5 percent last year and the government forecasts growth to be above 6 percent this year.
Flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia (PSEOY, GIAA.JK) in February signed a deal with Bombardier Inc. (BDRBF, BBD.B.T, BBD.A.T) to buy six CRJ1000 jets and has the option to buy 18 more. It said then that it would also lease another 12 CRJ1000 jets as the company seeks to expand its fleet to 194 airplanes by 2015 from about 100 in 2011.
Earlier Wednesday, Garuda’s chief executive, Emirsyah Satar, told reporters that it may purchase 50 turboprop aircraft made by Franco-Italian ATR and Canadian Bombardier’s Q400, adding it will decide on the purchase by the first half of next year.
“The price of each plane may be around $16 million,” Satar said, without elaborating the reason for the possible purchase. Analysts said the airline may look to add turboprop aircraft to its fleet to serve Indonesia’s remote areas.
Aircraft in the Turboprop segment are suitable for short- and medium-distance flights with a duration of up to four hours. This could be crucial for Indonesia’s aviation industry, especially as analysts estimate about three-quarters of the airports across the country’s 17,000 islands can only serve smaller aircraft.
Meanwhile, privately held Lion Air ordered 27 additional ATR turboprops in February following an order of 230 Boeing 737s, a further illustration of how demand from expanding middle class of Indonesia’s 240 million population insulates the country from economic slowdown in the West.
“The airline industry grew at an unprecedented rate…[which] requires [more] human resources,” Herry Bakti, the director general of air transport, said Wednesday. “We need at least 500 new pilots each year, while all our [aviation] schools combined can only produce 300,” he added.
Bakti said after a signing ceremony between the transport ministry and Boeing Co. (BA) for training programmes for pilots, technicians and air traffic controllers, also said the country needs about 500 new mechanics for airplane maintenance each year.
“Right now our focus is on ensuring the 33,500 airplanes we’re forecasting that will be delivered over the next 20 years be delivered. It’s not only important to Boeing, but it’s also [important] to the economic growth of the world,” said Sherry Carbary, the vice president of Boeing Flight Services.
To help meet the goal, Boeing will help customers who “might not have the infrastructure or the resource pipeline in place,” said Carbary. She said Boeing has forecast that the Southeast Asian region will need 42,000 new pilots and 48,000 technicians over the next 20 years. -By Andreas Ismar and Linda Silaen