Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo talks about HE-AVIAP

In preparation of the seminar on Higher education for aviation professions, Astrid Wiriadidjaja, Head of the International Relations study program has interviewed the rector of IULI on the background and the reasons for initiating this important seminar.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: Why has IULI initiated this seminar on enhanced Higher Education for aviation professions?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo: We have innovative ideas and innovative concepts to push university education for aviation professions forward, but we need partners to realize these innovations. That´s the main reason for the seminar.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: How would you say is IULI innovative in this matter?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo: University education for aviation professions usually is limited to aircraft design and aircraft manufacturing. When a young man or a young woman is fascinated by aviation and wants a university education to join the industry for designing or manufacturing aircrafts – there are a lot of universities worldwide, offering courses to learn this business and to learn the science behind aircraft design and aircraft manufacturing. But if a young man or a young woman wants to become an airline-pilot, he/she has to go to a commercial pilot school, offering flight training outside universities and below university level. Here, for example, IULI is innovative, as we offer a Bachelor-course on Aviation Engineering, combined with a university engineering education with a flight training up to a professional pilot license.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: Why does a pilot need a university education?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo:  Well, when civil aviation started 75 years ago, it was felt that pilots don´t need a university education. Piloting was primarily craftsmanship and the aircrafts were quite simple at that time – compared to today’s aircrafts.  It was therefore reasonable at that time to allocate pilot training below university level. But today´s aircrafts have been becoming very complex! Modern airlines are full with advanced control systems and full of information systems, which act independent from the pilots and sometime even beyond the control of the pilots. Today´s pilots must now be able to understand this complex system behavior.  

Airlines have caught up with this changed requirement by using expensive flight-simulators and elaborated standard operating procedures for almost every situation. Pilots are trained regularly on this standard operation to keep the level of situational awareness high. No doubt – the level of safety, achieved by this training strategy is very high. But we believe that higher education is an alternative way – or at least a complementary way – to provide a better system of understanding and thus a higher capability of pilots to cope with unexpected situations. It is thought-provoking that pilots operate controls systems, without having had a single lesson on control theory. It is thought-provoking that pilots operate computer systems, without any educational background in information systems and information processing. Following prescribed procedures may be a sufficient in normal situations and may be adequate even for abnormal situations, but accidents also show that pilots are lost, if they don’t understand the situation. And higher education is the classical way to arrive at a better level of understanding rather just knowing that something happens when something is done.

Even in medicine, where sophisticated technologies, automated diagnostics and standard procedures are as well progressing, no one claims that medical doctors in the future may no longer needca university education. Again: We do not say that the current way of pilot training is insufficient. The effort of flight-schools and airlines is extremely high here and the level of safety of aviation is excellent, compared to ships, cars and other transportation vehicles. This is beyond any doubt. But by nature, we believe in higher education and we believe that with a university, pilots are better equipped to understand the behavior of complex systems and that pilots need a better level of math that they can understand more sophisticated aerodynamic theories. Currently this is beyond their educational level. Therefore we believe that an engineering education at university level is beneficial for pilots.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: Is that situation, you have described for pilots, also true for other aviation professions?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo:  We believe: yes!

Take aircraft maintenance, which by the same tradition is assigned to mechanics, which means craftsmanship. Mechanics are entitled to release an aircraft for service, which has undergone maintenance before or has shown a malfunction for repair. These mechanics are excellently trained and can use excellent tools for diagnostics and tests – but their educational level is technician. This works perfect, if craftsmanship is required and by long experience many of these maintenance mechanics are able to diagnose complex malfunctions of aircraft systems. There are incredible good mechanics! But from education there are technicians who have never experienced the educational level of an engineer. 

Similar situation for air traffic controllers: License requirements for air traffic controllers require little theoretical lessons, the majority is learning by doing and experience, experience, experience. Additionally very sophisticated organizational procedures guarantee redundancy and close supervision. It’s brilliant how air traffic control authorities invest to keep safety on an extreme high level. But in principle an air traffic controller is like a traffic cop on a crossing: He applies rules and some heuristics to manage the workload. Again this works on an operational level. But rules and heuristics are never sufficient to design effective complex control systems. This requires knowledge in control theory; this requires knowledge of scheduling algorithm. That is our problem: We have a bulk of theoretical knowledge on that at universities; we are used to apply these theories, methods and tools for system design and system simulation – but we have only little knowledge of the specific requirements of air traffic control as this business happens totally outside of universities. Air traffic control on the other hand have a wealth of knowledge and experience on aviation related constraints and optimization needs. But they have little knowledge on what system theories are able to solve. Therefore our proposal is to establish interfaces for mutual learning. We do not claim that universities find THE solution; but if universities are involved in teaching that concurrently creates learning situations for universities. And we indeed believe that it is beneficial for air traffic controllers, if they have the opportunity to apply control theories to air traffic situation as mental exercises. This is the spirit of universities and university education.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: It is obviously very prestigious for IULI to have the European aviation authority EASA as organizing partner for the seminar.How did you succeed, to get EASA into the boat?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo:  Well, we are not a stand-alone university, but supported by strong European partners. Since the foundation of IULI in 2014, IULI is supported by a European university consortium under the leadership of the Technical University Ilmenau in Germany. Since the foundation of IULI, the development of IULI is embedded in an empowerment project, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. We have developed joint degrees with our European partners according to Indonesian and European HE-standards. That’s our competitive advantage and that’s our unique characteristic compared to other universities in Indonesia. We do not have the understanding of a stand-alone university, but as a gateway to continuing European Higher Education. This is our guideline for the design of our academic courses.

By that close relation to European universities we do also have access to European authorities. A German professor from one of our European partner universities, who has supported us from the beginning in the development of our Aviation Engineering courses, has good contacts to the European aviation authority. This colleague has contacted EASA and motivated, to organize this seminar with us. And EASA in turn has recognized our contacts and our network in South East Asia. That´s the reasons for acquiring this cooperation.

But you are right: That´s exceptional and only in reach for universities, who have these strong links to European universities. But that´s our competitive edge.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: What are the next steps after the seminar?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo:  With this seminar, we have brought together representatives out of 10 Asian and 6 European countries from aviation authorities, aviation industry and universities. This is a network that we will build upon by joint future events on this subject.

We hope that we can build up an aviation related network of universities between ASEAN countries and to universities in Europe that enables mutual support and the exploitation of synergies. Internationalization is important here, as within a single nation we do not find sufficient resources to develop. What IULI is offering is unique in Indonesia, but in other ASEAN countries as well in Europa, we have university partners, working in a similar direction and having experiences beneficial for our further development. We have to reinforce our progress by cooperation. This works! Just by organizing this seminar we already got offers from two universities, one from Malaysia and one from Taiwan, to send students from us to learning events, organized by them. Hence, we create opportunities for our students to get in touch with international partner universities, working in a similar spirit.

Finally, we hope, that this seminar will not be a single event, but a kick-off to a series of events, every year organized in another country. We know that our partner university in Hanoi is volunteering to do so next year.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: Why is that seminar called seminar?

Dr. Ir. Tutuko Prajogo: This is indeed an issue that needs some explanation and I have to confess that I am not fully happy with the term seminar.

By nature it is a conference and conference probably would be the better term to designate this event. But we felt, conference sounds too formal and is connoted too much with negotiations. We want to be more informal and create a common leaning environment like an academic seminar, where everyone learns from each other. But it is also true that it is not really an academic seminar, as for a seminar the learning objective is set ahead and not the result of the seminar.  

European universities call this type of event “workshop” to underline the joint activity to produce a common result, like a common understanding or a common objective. Workshop therefore would be a better term than seminar. But people from the industry may mix this up as an industrial workshop, where hammering and milling of industrial workers take place. This would be totally misleading. Therefore, we finally have chosen the term “seminar” as the best term to describe this event.

Astrid Wiriadidjaja: Thank you rector for this interview! We wish you great success for the seminar.

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