Fieldtrip Asia

By Hans Adriaanse


The support of ICAO’s Trainair programme, Maastricht University, Netherlands Aviation College Hoofddorp and Allair International, Maastricht, is acknowledged.


Dr Hans Adriaanse (Amsterdam,1946) is assistant professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Maastricht and consultant to the Netherlands Aviation College in Hoofddorp. August/September 1997 he visited Asia.

Amsterdam – Roma – Singapore .

The flight to Seoul was supposed to have a stop-over in Singapore, but I was not prepared for Roma. It had been a foggy start at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Even the little ferry-boat taking me across the Y-harbour behind Amsterdam Central Station, could hardly ply. At its slowest pace we crossed to reach the other bank safe and sound. The NS express train brought me to Schiphol in 20 minutes. As I am a regular visitor to the Netherlands Aviation College in Hoofddorp, I am very familiar with this stretch, but this time I realized how excellent this connection to the 4th busiest airport in Europe is. I only know of the 65 cents subwaytram in Boston to be a cheaper and faster linkage to and from downtown. At Schiphol, the movements of the group of Singapore girls already stroke me: with more than one hour delay “due to the late arrival of the aircraft”, we departed for – SURPRISE ! – Roma, where 80% of the Amsterdam boarded passengers got off the plane.


Slightly over an hour we sat at the gate in Fiumicino Airport. As we departed from Rome the plane was full again. The Singapore girls – the few boys are not very visible – worked up to the expectations of the most spoiled world traveller. Their service was excellent. The food choice was larger than in the Dutch flag carrier. At 08.45 hours , we arrived at Changi Airport terminal 2. Changi’s conceptualization resembles Schiphol’s quite substantially. However, Changi is more luxurious and more spacious. The shops are not presenting any cheapies anymore : the Singapore dollar is higher than ever.

Changi has no gambling centre like Schiphol has with the Holland Casino, but it has a beautiful indoor orchid garden with fishy ponds bridged by svelte wooden structures. I was tired after nearly 24 hours of travelling. but veered up when my GSM-phone appears to be functioning from here!

I called from Singapore to Seoul through the Dutch GSM-system: Mrs. Jin Young Kim would meet me at the Kimpo International Airport in Seoul at 18.30 hrs.

Singapore – Seoul.

Flying time from Singapore to Seoul is nearly 6 hours. The service on board was relaxed. SQ is a marvel of an airline : consider they have a home market of 3 million only ! At their 50th anniversary earlier this year, SQ ordered a number of 77 (seventy-seven) Boeing triple 7’s (B-777) for the coming years.

Their fleet is very young, and already outnumbers KLM’s. When I finally arrived at Kimpo, I had a hard time in finding my date, as she appeared to be waiting at the other international terminal. We went into the subway, reaching out underneath the airport. Kimpo Airport this year, is the ninth busiest in the world both for passengers (35 million) and freight (1,4 million tonnes). It takes about one hour to get

downtown, which by the way is not a very valid concept anymore in such megalopoles: Seoul has over 10 million inhabitants now. What a sleepy village Amsterdam seems to be, even New York is quite digestible compared to this level of activity and intensity 24 hours a day. The 8 lane freeway next to the house where I stayed continues to be busy as if it were Friday’s rush hour, long after midnight.

I stayed in Seoul for almost a week. I paid a visit to Korea Civil Aviation Authority’s Civil Aviation Training Centre in Chongju, approximately 2 hours by bus outside of Seoul. A compact school, excellent facilities small numbers of students(140) and staff. The Korean CATC has flight simulators catering for the training needs of KAL (B-747:42; Airbus:34) and Asiana. Faculty director Chang Soo Lee wants to work on international relations, provides all data on civil aviation training in South Korea.

In Korea, you have to be aware of the threat of the communistic North. After the war in 1953, the 38 degree latitude armistice has maintained a heavily armed peace. However, the millions of well fed -the only well fed in the North ?- soldiers can run over the southern part of the Korean peninsula in a matter of hours, if nuclear weaponry is not to be used. The capital of Seoul is only 40 kilometres from Panmunjon, the ritual negotiation spot, the room cut in half by the 38 degree line.

Nonetheless Korean aviation flourishes. Kimpo Airport in Seoul is among the first 10 airports in the world, bigger than Schiphol with only 2 runways in operation. One of our students of the Netherlands Aviation college, carrying out an internship at the Tokyo Narita Airport, did a 2 week apprenticeship at Kimpo. I failed to link up with her although the KLM manager Mr Oh was very helpful, also in linking me up to professor Hong of the Han Guk Aviation University in Seoul. There they just hosted a seminar organized together with Leyden University’s Air and Space Law Institute (a renowned centre of expertise), which I was to meet with more often during my walkabout in Asian aviation. Korea has set a very ambitious planning for aviation in the next century. In 1990, it already started preparations for the construction of a complete new Inchon Airport on an artificial island off the coast near Seoul, in addition with the capacity of Schiphol (27 million passengers per year and 3 million tonnes of freight).

Seoul – Beijing.

From Seoul to Beijing is a short flight of less than 2 hours, even with the detour due to the impossibility of coming near North Korean airspace. I felt a bit uneasy in the KAL-flight, famous as it is for being downed by the Russian Mig above Sachalin. Just this August, a KAL-plane crashed at the island of Guam with a massive number of victims. Anyway, this was a smooth flight, the first one on which I was asked whether I spoke mandarin : “no potonwah!’, I am sorry. I realized I only spoke some 5 European dialects and knew virtually nothing about the official language of the 1200 million Chinese. “One third of the world” as they will let me know on numerous occasions. On arrival at Beijing International airport -no politically correct name here!- I fell in the hands of a sweet looking taxi-driver.

She made me pay more than 5 times the price, I learnt later on. I thought, Beijing is huge so $ 50 is reasonable. As we drove up to the entrance of the convention centre after 15 minutes, I realised I was ripped off . However, I made it on time to the Beijing International Convention Centre. where I participated with some colleagues of Maastricht University in the 10th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. So this part of the trip was mostly devoted to ‘health” : my other job ! From the last Trainair Meeting in Montreal I had two contacts in China, that seemed promising, so I decided to spend time on trying to locate these people. The first conc. Mr. Jiang Bo at the China Civil Aviation Authority was surprisingly easy to find. A young proactive man, he just returned from negotiations with Lufthansa in Frankfurt, and was at my disposal for discussions over lunch, immediately. Mr Bo showed me around in the huge CAAC building, a Stalinistic structure, pointing at a construction site across the street :’… there will be the new computerized building for all of us next year ! During the real Chinese lunch – different from what we get in Holland – he pointed out that for me, it would be best to establish direct contacts with the Civil Aviation Institute of China, located in the nearby city of Tianjin. Thinking of the manoeuvres of Chinese with foreigners, putting them on slow tracks of referrals and deadlines melting away in growingly hotter desire of the Westerner to conquer that unique market – thinking of all that, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Tianjin “harbour of the Emperor” was only two hours away from Beijing.

I called the CAIC dozens of times, but did not get any contact speaking English. It made me feel like being in Latin America 20 years ago without any knowledge of Spanish. As time ran out, the next day I took the bus to Tianjin. On the way up I read, it had a European flavour, as eight western countries had forced this harbour to open up to commerce and trade after the opium wars, in the 19th century. It proved to be difficult to find my man Mr. Kevin Wu among the 10 million Chinese living in Tianjin, but helped by a local Esperanto friend we managed to locate his beeper at a barbecue party. The next morning Mr Wu, officer of foreign affairs of the CAIC, came to the Yu Cheng Hotel to pick me up and guide me to the Institute located near the Tianjin Coastal airport. This School is the biggest civil aviation training facility that I had ever seen: serving over 3000 top quality students by now, in every aviation discipline, planning to serve double that number, in 5 years time. The campus comprises more than 20 buildings, located right along the runways of Tianjin Coastal Airport. I want to mention the newest facility which comprises a joint venture of CAAC and Rolls Royce, a maintenance training centre meeting the most sophisticated standards. Grand opening 19th of September. At the Beijing airport I had already seen the flourishing of Chinese airlines, their growth being object of the steepest curves in the aviation world.

As any motor can propel these, why not Rolls Royce?

In co-operation with Melbourne University, Tianjin offers a programme in Aviation Management. While contacts with Sweden SAS Academy are regular, the line to Kiev’s Aviation University declined with the Soviet Union’s dismembering. On Tianjin’s runways, there are 18 school-owned planes for training purposes. Another feature is the excellent kitchen in the guesthouse, where foreign teachers and students can be housed at a pleasant rate, varying from 10 till 100 Yuan per day. The cook running that kitchen so very tastefully – I talk from experience , it was delicious !- was said to be paid more than the Rector of the institute because he was lured away from a 5-star establishment. Mr. Wu told me about the collaboration already in place with the Dutch government taking care of training for senior airport managers, through SMS and ATC -personnel, in Bangkok’s CATC I learnt there later . China’s home market will be the biggest in the 21st century, the country might well be THE superpower by then. Everybody wants to be part of that. I make arrangements to have the CAIC president and Mr Wu early next year in Amsterdam for a visit to our rich dwarf state.

Beijing – Singapore.

Returning form downtown Beijing to the airport I paid the normal taxi fee. There is a special express way to the airport, so getting there is quick and easy. The airport itself is for the largest part one big construction pit, just as all the rest of China seems to be.

Not true : as I learnt 80% of the working population is still FARMER ! It is absolutely amazing how China, remaining communist only by acknowledging its catechism, has succeeded in attracting foreign investment from all over the world, including the USA, still heading the totally ineffective Cuba boycott. But not here: Boeing and Airbus are fighting to sell their products in the Chinese mega market. Of late, Europe has won, selling 60 Airbuses when Chirac visited, and managed to be silent about human rights, while the Americans had talked again about this sensitive issue during the handover of Hong Kong to the motherland.

Once in the aircraft, I get ample time to think it over, as a typhoon darkens the skies over the Beijing airport while we boarded. The SIA crew had a hard time to hide their dissatisfaction with the airport authority as they keep us on the runway for over an hour an then order us back to the gate. The cabin crew gave every effort to keep us happy, by serving drinks and snacks. The first officer announced every now and then, that he basically couldn’t say anything, because the control tower did not provide any information other than that there is a delay, length unknown but long, for sure. At first, I experienced great madness in myself: as the typhoon unfolded, I thought traffic control did well in keeping us stranded like a beached whale.

When I set foot at Changi again it is 3.30 hrs in the morning. The airport is deserted, but I could pick up cash on the card, and a taxi appeared from nowhere around some corner, as soon as I showed my nose outside the door, to smell the humidity and the heat. At 4.30hrs I dropped into my bed for 5 hours costing me just as much as the whole week in the Beijing Hui Qiau Hotel.


Changi International Airport (service to 131 cities in 57 countries) has two terminals, linked by a skytrain running every few minutes. A third terminal will be opened in 2004. Both terminals are very spacious and luxurious. Yet they are rather quiet as no other functions than arrival and departure are performed here. The viewing mall offering unhampered sight at take off and touch down, is huge, but empty. The view was not very interesting, as there were hardly any other planes than SQ. Neither was there a lot of movements on the ramps or runways. There are no hotels or offices other than the CAAS. Yet this airport has been chosen to be the best in the world by international travellers for years in a row. The service attitude of the personnel is perfect. Looking at the departure schedule for 13 to 20 hrs, it was striking that it showed hardly anything else than “regional” if that is Asian. There are four Australian destinations on the list. In Terminal 2, it is a similar situation: only Asian destinations, plus San Francisco and Los Angeles, once each. It illustrated the extent to which aviation has grown here. In the next century, Asia will be the leader of the pack without a doubt

One of the things remarkable here is the taxiing speed; it is literally a few minutes after touch down, that the engines can be shut down at the gate. Also, doors are opened after seconds instead of minutes. Usually, people stand up right after the captain has switched off the “fasten seatbelt” sign. They all stand there feeling stupid for long minutes, because there normally is NO movement in the aisles before the gate has been cleared. This procedure, God knows why, takes many minutes in every airport, as we all know. Passengers torture theirs spines to bring their luggage down from the overhead-bins. Then, they look at each other, assessing the conversations they had with this absolute stranger. Sometimes I slept against the shoulder of this person for 5 hours and only now standing up to disembark I saw why we never talked. An alienating moment this disembarkation : it should take as little time as possible. Changi takes care of limiting the embarrassment of the disembarkment to the utmost. Well done Singapore!

A leader in the business world-wide Changi now plans for Terminal 3, to be opened in 2004. In a campaign to focus on the event, CAAS now has a contest in place : passengers are challenged to dream up innovative ideas about what the new terminal should be like : shape the future of terminal 3 and make $ 10,000 out of it.

That day, I read in their Straits Times that the chinafication (98%) would not prepare Singapore for the next century, neither had the president Goh Eng enough confidence in the genetic material present in the city state. Finally, Singapore should open up to the influx of brains and capital (or the other way around) of the world. It should be made easy for anybody to come and live in the 20 by 40 kilometres of the island, because that is all there is, really. Imagine that currently the bid for a car certificate (every month they assign he 100 highest bidders such a document) runs up to way over $ 50,000. Then you still have to start buying this car that will cost you about three times as much as at home. But, right or wrong, this car restriction policy of the Republic of Singapore, their motorways can be driven on, asphalt disappears rapidly under the motorhead, and you get there on time!

The visits to the Singapore Aviation Academy (SAA), the Singapore Airlines Engineering Training Centre, and the SIA Cabin Crew training Centre, were just all I needed to get this inferiority complex, already lurking at the back of my mind. In Singapore, everything is next to perfect. Nevertheless, it was interesting to notice that the public/private partnership for civil aviation training developed by the Netherlands Aviation College, was seen as the leading edge. SIA engineering employs over 5000: from the training area (SIA EC training employs 40 instructors) you look right into the bays where the Megatops are being overhauled. I assisted at the closure of the first course for Triple 7 maintenance, and at one of the sessions of the Human factors course that SIA engineering developed under the supervision of director Mr Woo Pau. I had the opportunity to visit cabin crew training guided by Mrs Carissa Ee, the mighty quick and sympathetic curriculum developer of Dr Goh Ban Eng’s Cabin Crew Training Centre. Not to talk about SAA, where I was accepted by foreign relation officer Chan Pin Pin, who showed me around on the premises and informed me about the history of SAA. The Leyden connection , the famous professor Henri Wassenberg of the Air & Space Law Institute, was already present in Singapore: I made some commitment to myself so as to complement this Dutch connection with some NLC flavours – and who knows what more of Dutch aviation training we can put in the window !

In 1995/6 SAA, recently approved ISO 9000, received 1733 students from 69 countries to participate in any of their courses in the SAA itself or the School of Aviation Management, the School Air traffic Management or the School of Emergency Services. Fire hazards are trained very realistically. On approaching the School, the taxi-driver was about to make a U-turn : ‘a plane must have crashed there’, as we saw huge clouds of black smoke sent to the heavens right from a plane on the runway. I must admit it took me a while before I realized we had found the school.

Singapore – Jakarta.

A short trip from Singapore to Jakarta on SQ 164. Even on this flight of just over an hour, cabin crew managed to serve a rather complete meal. It seemed remarkable that SQ uses wide bodies mostly B-747’s for these shorthaul flights, the plane was filled up not even to half. Appears to be calculated risk : SQ has 52 B-747’s, 30 Airbuses and one (!) B737.

On arrival in Jakarta, I was met by Mr Daan VanderWekken, who is one of my successful young graduates, serving as a junior management consultant to the director of a chain of hospitals Dr. Abdul Radjak. His driver moved us rapidly from the one traffic jam to the other. Jakarta is one of those growing number of megalopoles in Asia, economically booming, traffic is killing due to the non-existence of an underground train system, or decent busservice. Private enterprises jump in, building toll-roads at profitable segments only. On your way to the Soekarno- Hatta Airport in Jakarta you pay toll three times! Found myself to be housed with Daan in the brand new guest house located on the top floor of the Rumah Sakit Thamrin Hospital. We were the first occupants of the facility, run by two round-the-clock servants. During that week, I paid visits to the Garuda Training Centre at Kambosi, and at the Civil Aviation Training Centre in Curug. Although the distance is just 40 kilometres, it took 3 hours by taxi to get to the Budiarto Airport where the Civil Aviation Training Centre is located. Half of that is traffic jams, the other half is driving at 3kms an hour because of serious potholes in the ‘road’.

Dr. Budhi Suyitno is a no-nonsense manager, who had no time to lose. He handed over an in-depth analysis of the CATC by the Toulouse Institute Aeronautique et Spatiale. The report documents the programmes and actual functioning by pointing out the strength and weaknesses. I was surprised to see the French found great interest in Garuda to co-operate more closely. The NLC type of public/private partnership IS a good solution, but does it work outside open market situations? The Indonesian airlines Garuda, Merpati, Sempati Air, Bouraq, Mandala, Dirgantara Air all have their training needs, service and fleet planning. These are times for CAMP’s (Civil Aviation Master Plans).

Amazingly, no hurt feelings toward the former colonial ruler: I mean Holland was here for 350 years! On the other hand, frustration about the lack of privatization, deregulation vis a vis the government is prevalent. The Soeharto bureaucracy still is omnipotent, it seems, in all areas of life, from the tobacco policy (kretek imperium led by Tommy Soeharto) to aviation policy (new all Indonesian plane built at Bandung at 4 times the cost of a similar Fokker. This is due to the Habibi/Pronk clashes. As captain Pujiono of Garuda Flight Crew Training Centre points out, government decides on the number of pilots to be trained for a specific type of aeroplane. Once, for example, a case where 150 pilots were being trained for a certain plane, then government decided to buy another plane! There may be light at the end of the tunnel for Garuda, with its fleet of B747(9); Airbus(21); B-737(15); DC-10(7); MD-11(16) and one Fokker F-28 in the alliance with KLM and Northwest.

I wonder where GAT (Garuda Aviation Training) and CAT will be when I return. With IPTN as an aircraft construction firm, in the booming Asian market, 13,000 islands in your own archipelago, what a bright future..


The flight from Jakarta through Singapore to Bangkok had become a routine; of course there was this Megatop (B-747-400), of course it went quickly and smoothly, and I just had the time to by some books at Changi, and again I was on my way to Bangkok. On arrival I was awestruck by the friendliness of the Thai people.

I disregarded the Airport hotel that had been recommended to me by a very dear Thai friend, went into the city and found a place for 10% of its cost. In the evening Dr. Prakit, dean of the Medical School and a candidate for Minister of Health in the next cabinet, came to welcome me and enjoyed the good food on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Seen from the toll road, the Thai International Training centre is on the left: the taxi driver did not know this as he just arrived from Cambodja – remember NYC where I never met somebody indigenous – so we had to go to the toll road’s end, and backed up half way through crazy alleys. In Bangkok, you can easily spend more than 2 hours in traffic jams for a ride otherwise taking 20 minutes. Finally we hit the 5 tower complex of Thai Airways International (Airbus (37); B-737 (7); B-747 (21); B777 (4); DC-10 (3); MD-11 (4) .

The training centre is located on the 24th floor. Captain Sanchai, training manager, Mr Thanong Chongcharoen director of cabin crew training and Dr. Sompol Suwanaprasert, manager of flight crew ground training, were waiting for me. I was at the end of my nearly one month trip, would go back the next day to Amsterdam, was tired of being polite all the time, ran out of business cards: it took a few minutes to get through this group’s crossfire of rightly asked questions: what the hell, did I come to bother them ? At high speed, we nevertheless succeeded to delineate some win-wins for the Amsterdam – Bangkok case of CAT. The Thai felt very proud and strong because of the recently founded Star Alliance. This mega- merger is not the first – this was KLM-Northwest – but certainly the strongest one, once it becomes operational. They offered me a rapid estafette all through their training facilities: the mock-up – real kitchen, delicious food being served! – the language laboratories, the evacuation trainer. I was introduced in many classrooms, put on the spot to communicate directly with instructors and students. Always one of the students would stand up and ‘on behalf of the class of 1996, welcome Dr Hans’. Thanong appeared to be very interested in having cabin crew apprentices from Amsterdam. He will visit the Amsterdam training centre and select some students to try out this type of exchange. Thai started hiring other nationalities, limiting these to Asian ones. Why not try European personnel ? We are to be a global alliance ! Interestingly, Thanong introduced me to the first of what he called ‘flying mothers’ to be interviewed that day for eventually being employed again. These over 45-year old women have over 10 years of experience, been out of it due marriage, children etc., and now on the market again. Thanong would see 20 of them that afternoon. He was so proud of the first applicant that I had to guess her age in front of her: she was much older than my real guess was, but looked like more than employable. Thanong : ‘I expect there is only one or two out of 20 that has become a bit plump: we will offer them a scheme to work on their weight! If unsuccessful, we will keep in other positions : up till 60 as is the regulation by now’.

CATC’s president Dr Ongkanb Indrambarya is an elder statesman : with him and his staff wing commander Lorrat and squadron leader Pratipat, we went into discussions about educational concepts, and found out we got quite close to each other in defining what the educational strategy for the 21st century needed to be. Amazed to find out that Chinese personnel had been training here for the Dutch government! It is overwhelming and encouraging to meet so many devoted leaders committed to civil aviation training. Filled with high hopes, expectations and good intentions I now have to go back to base, where the nitty gritty, the heat of the day would test me.

Bangkok – Amsterdam .

After the last wonderful dinner on the riverside in between tropical showers, still eating out beautifully at a superb buffet, with a view on the longboats racing by the riverside, Dr Prakit and his wife were so kind to take me all the way to the airport. They had found it quite normal to offer me their son’s room, to take a shower and dress up for dinner. The generals living in their street were now politicians. Salaries for politicians are so low you have to be corrupt to survive, Prakit explained. Salaries of doctors are so low you have to have private practice on the side: that ‘s why instructors in the medical school have no time for curriculum planning ; that ‘s why although we are famous for our application of Problem-based learning, I consider it a failure at the Chulalongkorn University.

Dr. Prakit and his companion for life , professor in Nursing, both drove an old white Mercedes. Many Bangkok drivers gave way to their ‘tanks’ as they call them. I was right on time at the bustling Bangkok airport. It has been modernized a lot, and works fast. I bought some presents for the kids, trying to find something really Thai but it is too late for that. The tax-free offered the same line of Chivas Regal, Burburry’s and what ever cosmopolitan type of rubbish you can find anywhere. Just before midnight I boarded the China Airlines service to Amsterdam: the Taiwanese are friendly, but nothing special. They got me there on time and as I was rather empty so no new impressions arose.

It was interesting a Taiwan company can bring you to Amsterdam from Bangkok for a lot less than KLM does. The Asian tigers are on the road and in the air! Look at EVA Air the Taiwanese cargo carrier with B-747 (12); B-767 (9), MD-11 (6); MD-90 (6) and then consider KLM Asia (..) a special company to fly to Taipei and circumvent the Pekinese angers. As we touched down, I could see the Hoofddorp-based NLC on the left of the runway : home again!

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