17 November 2012
Finally some good news to a growing number of unemployed pilots. Malindo Air and Lion Air will hire more than 600 pilots from Malaysia for its operations over the next few months to years while its rivals are only hiring between 50 and 100 a year.
That’s not all. According to PT Lion Grup president director Rusdi Kirana, the group has the capacity to absorb many more pilots and it can even hire up to 1,000 over the next five years.
“With all the aircraft orders that we have made, we certainly need pilots. It is not empty promises, it is real. We need pilots but it also depends on the pilots. They must have good skills, knowledge and the right attitude (before we can hire them),” he says in an interview with StarBizWeek.
He adds that “we are growing and we have placed an order for 381 new aircraft and that means we need pilots. And we are also thinking of ordering more aircraft.”
The airline group was in the limelight in February when it firmed an order to buy 230 aircraft worth US$22bil from Boeing and that purchase was said to be the single largest contract in commercial aviation history. It is because of that order, many within the aviation industry began looking at Lion Air seriously.
The PT Lion Grup owns Lion Air, Wings Air and Batik Air (to be launched in the second half of 2013) and has a 49% stake in Malaysia’s Malindo Air.
“In a year, we will take delivery of 36 to 40 aircraft and for each aircraft we need five sets of pilots or 10 people. So we need to hire about 200 pilots each year and over five years we will need 1,000 pilots.
“On top of that, there will also be pilots who fall sick or go on leave, so we need 20% more. So in total, we can take up to 1,200 pilots over the five years, but it all depends on skills, knowledge and attitude,” Rusdi says.
There are over 1,000 unemployed pilots in the country who can’t seem to pin down jobs because there is a limited number of vacancies and they cannot market themselves globally because they have too few flying hours.
But the emergence of Malindo Air has presented an opportunity for the trained pilots, some of whom have taken study loans from banks and are doing odd-jobs to service their debt and to make ends meet.
When news broke that Malindo Air was set up, the airline was flooded with enquires. In fact, when it conducted a walk-in interview early this month, throngs of people showed up for various jobs in the new airline. Among them were over 600 unemployed pilots who had travelled across the country for the interview.
“The airline is our fresh hope of fulfilling a career,” says an unemployed pilot who stood in line for three days for an interview.
Whether or not he gets the job will depend on him passing a written test, a psychometric test and a simulator test before he can ink a contract to fly for either Malindo Air, Lion Air or any other airline within the group.
However, they still need to attend aircraft type training which will initially be conducted in Jakarta and they will have to take loans which the group will help to provide. The training is essential to clock in the prerequisite flying hours with Lion Air before they can pilot for Malindo, which is expected to take off in mid-March next year.
To show its seriousness, the group will transport one simulator to Kuala Lumpur so training can eventually be done here.
Rusdi’s strategy is a quick way of meeting the airline’s needs, where instead of employing high school leavers to undertake training, he is hiring those who are already skilled and trained to undertake aircraft type and line training. That will help to save cost.
He acknowledges that “yes, it is a clever strategy but we are thinking of the long term. We could possibly take experienced pilots but then we would not be spending time to train the young pilots.”
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
SBW: Will Malindo Air and PT Lion Grup hire over 600 pilots who showed up for an interview last month?
Rusdi: We have ordered 381 aircraft and we are already talking about ordering more aircraft with Boeing. With such an order, we need pilots.
We can take experience pilots, which we are already doing but these people are taken based on age and they get older every year. A time will come when they need to retire, so who will fly our planes then?
So, we need the younger generation to be trained and training takes time, sometimes up to three years and it is a big investment for us.
We have a training school and we do train those from high school. Even for these cadets, we have to help them get a loan from the bank for the training. Indirectly we are guaranteeing the loan a cadet takes from the banks.
With all these conditions, why don’t we source pilots from Malaysia? There is a big pool of pilots who have undergone training and we get an opportunity to hire them instead of getting the cadets.
We will talk to the Malaysian banks to provide funding for their training. We do not think the Malaysian banks will not support us. (Actually), we are not worried about funding because we have a good relationship with the banks and the Malaysian government has also been supportive.
Finally, we want to have long days to long years in Malaysia and we do not want to make a bad impression on the people here.
Was there an arrangement with the Malaysian government to absorb the unemployed pilots?
We did talk to the Prime Minister and the Transport Minister on this issue. The Government said so long as we can give first priority to Malaysians it would help solve something. Malindo will take 99% Malaysians, and we will not give jobs to foreigners before we hire a Malaysian. We do the same in Indonesia.
We have 800 pilots there, and since there is a shortage of Indonesian pilots, we hired some foreigners. But we are also providing training for those right after high school under our cadet programme.
How much would it cost you to set up the training centre?
I am not certain of the number but the biggest cost is the simulators, which may be about US$10mil to US$15mil. If we see demand for more pilots with our aircraft deliveries, we may put in more simulators in Kuala Lumpur.
What is the next step after the interview?
The senior pilots would prepare reports after the interview, based on skills and knowledge. Then comes a written entrance test and a psychometric test to ascertain their attitude. The last part is to put them in a simulator to see how they handle the aircraft.
Once they pass all of them, we will sign a contract with them and get them funding from a bank at the lowest possible interest rates so that they are not burdened. We will bond them for 10 to 15 years.
Once that happens, we will send the graduates to Indonesia for aircraft type training. They can stay in our dormitory there for free but they will have to pay for their food, which is reasonably priced because the area is not in the centre of Jakarta. They can then fly with Lion Grup and follow our pilots and they can be the co-pilot.
They will need to clock in 200 hours, which is about 80 hours per month, so the whole process can take three to four months.
When will the first batch be hired?
For the stewardess, we are trying to finalise the agreements by November, and the general staff, pilots and engineering staff by December.
We need the stewardess early because they need to be trained. Experienced stewardess will be used when we begin Malindo Air and we will seek permission to use them. Once those recruited are fully trained, they will take over.
In January, the first batch of graduates will go to Jakarta and assuming we take 200, they will go in batches in the following months.
Malindo is taking off in mid-March. Where will you source for the pilots?
They will be Malaysian pilots, but experienced ones. We have about 20 Malaysian pilots now flying with Lion Air and they will (be seconded) to fly for Malindo and that is why we are confident of taking off in March.