AirNav Indonesia to standardize air traffic controllers’ wages

by Agnes Winarti on 2013-04-26

The newly established state-owned Indonesian Flight Navigation Service (PPNPI), also known as AirNav Indonesia, is aiming to develop the performance of air traffic controllers at Bali’s international airport, Ngurah Rai, and other major airports nationwide to ensure better safety for Indonesia’s skies.

“We [AirNav Indonesia] are expected to be fully operating by 2014. By then, we hope that we will already have a PPNPI salary standard. Thus, there will be some increases, especially for those who are currently on the lowest salaries,” president director of PPNPI, Ichwanul Idrus, said on the sidelines of the 52nd annual conference of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) in Sanur on Wednesday.

The main theme of the conference is “satisfied controller=safe sky”, which emphasizes the urgency to improve the welfare of air traffic controllers in airports across developing countries, like Indonesia, as such people play a significant role in maintaining aviation safety.

Ichwanul acknowledged that currently wages for air traffic controllers in Indonesia varied greatly, as previously air traffic services had been managed by at least three different operators: Angkasa Pura (AP) 1, AP 2 and the working unit of the Transportation Ministry’s directorate general of civil aviation.

Indonesia has a total of 2,358 personnel employed by AP 1 and AP 2, and around 1,600 more officials under the directorate general of civil aviation. Of these, only around 1,200 are air traffic controllers.

Ichwanul said that AirNav Indonesia was currently prioritizing the development of air traffic control systems at major international airports around the archipelago, which included Jakarta (Soekarno-Hatta), Bali (Ngurah Rai), Medan (Polonia, which soon will be replaced by Kuala Namu), Surabaya (Juanda) and Makassar (Hassanudin).

“The development is for both equipment and human resources. For example, we will install control monitors that can monitor 10 flights simultaneously, instead of the current 14 flights, to ease the pressure on control duty and thus improve safety,” said Ichwanul.

Around 100-150 additional personnel would be required to ease the current burden of existing controllers nationwide. At Ngurah Rai airport alone, AirNav Indonesia’s director of personnel and general affairs, Saryono, stated that the number of air traffic controllers would have to be doubled from the current 52 personnel.

Conference executive and member of the executive board of IFATCA, Philippe Domogala, highlighted the fact that in most developing countries, air traffic control was a very low paid job, despite the great responsibility of making important decisions that affect aviation safety.

As Indonesia is currently fifth in the world — behind the US, China, India and Brazil — in terms of aviation passenger growth, he stressed that it was high time for Indonesia to start taking measures to provide better welfare for air traffic controllers.

“If you want to improve aviation safety, you have to treat them like professionals,” said Domogala, while adding that in terms of quality, most of Indonesia’s air traffic controllers met international standards.

“There’s no doubt that the air traffic controllers in Jakarta and Bali ATC centers have met international standards. However, their salary is much too low at the moment. We saw that many controllers in Indonesia have second jobs to feed their families,” said Domogala. He cited that the monthly salary of Indonesian air traffic controllers in Indonesia varied from around US$250 to a maximum of around $480-500 in Jakarta and Bali ATC centers.

“Ideally, they should be receiving $1,500-2,000 monthly,” he said.

President director of the Indonesian Air Traffic Controllers Association (IATCA), I Gusti Ketut Susila, acknowledged the situation, citing IATCA’s comparative study on the welfare of air traffic controllers in Indonesia and Thailand. “Based on our study in Thailand, which has a similar cost of living to Indonesia but smaller air space, we discovered that they have twice the number of personnel, with take home pay five times that earned by their Indonesian counterparts,” said Susila.

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s operational director Capt. Novianto Herupratomo had previously said that air traffic control, or ATC, contributed 1.42 percent to the 6,116 aviation hazards reported by Garuda pilots. An aviation hazard is a situation that has the potential to harm safety, such as a short period of time between one aircraft landing and another. Other airlines have not yet conducted such a study.

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