When we think about airlines and air transportation, mainly the first thing that runs into our mind is big jets carrying over 100 + passengers flying over 36000 ft, but today we are going to discuss the history of a very unique one among the special airlines that hop around islands of Indonesia with a Single Turboprop engine; SUSI AIR.
A PEEK INTO THE IRON LADY BEHIND THE AIRLINE
So the iconic woman behind Susi Air is Susi Pudjiastuti a reliable fishery businesswoman. Initially, she saw the potential for marine products from Pangandaran (West Java) and turned it into a money mine for her. She bought a plane to transport marine products to Jakarta. To save time, and deliver fresh marine products in short time. However, later the plane was widely used for humanitarian missions when the Aceh earthquake and tsunami hit. Susi’s generosity opens up other business opportunities. Later on Susi emerged as a big regional commercial airline with her name: Susi Air.
Living in an affluent family does not inevitably make Susi’s career as a businesswoman smooth. Susi’s steps to becoming an entrepreneur are full of twists and turns. The figure who dropped out of school when she was in the second grade of high school started his business from the scratch.
She refused to ask her parents for capital. As a solution, Susi sells her jewelry: bracelets, necklaces, and rings. The money from the sale of jewelry, amounting to 750 thousand, was used to start a career as a small entrepreneur. She also was a reseller of fish and linen beds, Susi was dominant in the aquatic industry, as she was so totally engaged and focused on her seafood business Every day Susi was the one who can’t be competed for her auctioning skills and experiences in the fish market.
Initially, Susi was keen and observant when estimating the price of each fish basket offered by the auctioneer. soon she got into studying the various processes in business in the fisheries world. From the buying process to packaging, to marketing. That is, Susi intervened herself first to take part in the whole process. Susi made a fortune when she started her production line.
Susi established a fish processing factory, PT ASI Pudjiastuti Marine Product, with a superior product in the form of lobster, which is branded as Susi Brand. This fish processing business also expands with markets to Asia and America. Therefore, Susi needs air transportation that can quickly transport her fresh seafood products
This success did not make Susi feel the upper hand. She continues to devote himself to studying business in his spare time. That’s way Susi has foresight in doing business. She saw the quality of marine products is very dependent on the speed of delivery. The sooner the seafood reaches the buyer, the higher the remuneration she receives.
SOUL REASON BEHIND THE BIRTH OF SUSI AIR
Fast delivery is the main factor when talking about aquatic business While most of Susi’s seafood customers are in Jakarta. To send these marine products by land route takes a long time. Travel time between Pangandaran-Jakarta reaches 9 hours. The long journey has an impact on the freshness of the seafood that quickly descends and dies in the middle of the journey. The idea of buying a Cessna Caravan plane emerged to solve this problem. The purchase of the Cessna Caravan aircraft then became the forerunner of the emergence of Susi Air in 2004. After all, the Call Sign from Cessna is its name: Susi Air.
The idea of owning an airplane was born from the conversation she had with Christian von Strombeck at the beginning of her introduction in 1997. Christian’s great support – who later became her husband – made Susi determined to start compiling proposals for loan funds to various banks in 1999. At that time, many people who think it was crazy. It’s hard to convince banks to lend to a fish business woman but later everything was history.
They don’t believe that Susi can afford the US$2 million plane price. After four years of going back and forth with proposals, only a national businessman understood Susi’s idea and was willing to provide funds. When the loan of 4.7 million US dollars was in hand, Susi immediately bought two planes as she had always wanted.
HUMANITARIAN ACTS AND THE BIRTH OF THE AIRLINE
The earthquake and tsunami in Aceh on December 26, 2004, brought deep sorrow to all Indonesian people, including Susi Pudjiastuti. The earthquake that caused hundreds of buildings to be destroyed and the victims reached 230 thousand souls shook his heart. Susi couldn’t stay still, every effort was made immediately. The Susi Air plane, which was previously used to support fishery business activities, was turned into a prayer. Assisting in the distribution of aid to disaster victims is her new task. After that, Susi Air became the first aircraft from outside Aceh that could penetrate the tsunami location two days after the disaster. Susi lands her plane full of assistance on Simeulue Island. An island closest to the epicenter.
Susi’s arrival is like a savior for the local community. Because, since the first tsunami, not a drop of aid was received. Moreover, all land routes were cut off. Local officials even said it took a bit of madness to get aid to areas near the epicenter such as Simeulue Island. And Susi managed to do the “crazy”.
“Her husband, Christian von Strombeck, flew the plane there himself because his men were reluctant to fly off schedule. Since then, Susi has taken a ‘specialization’ in sending aid on the Medan-Meulaboh Simeulue route. When other airlines charge a rental fee of US$1,000 per flying hour, they either give up their Cessna or free imagine not even taking a penny, or charge a modest fee.
The humanitarian mission was carried out by Susi wholeheartedly. Susi did not only distribute aid to Simeulue Island alone. But also in many places in Aceh. Since then many other countries have depended on Susi Air to send aid and volunteers. The existence of Susi Air then became famous. After his humanitarian mission was completed, many of his planes were chartered by international humanitarian organizations for post-tsunami recovery.
Maybe at first Susi was not comfortable with the name Susi Air. But over time she liked it. The cost of renting the plane opens up opportunities for Susi Air to go one step further. As a result, Susi had the idea to form the commercial airline Susi Air as an alternative pioneering air travel option in the country in 2005.
“In 2014, Susi Air’s fleet of 49 units consisted of Cessna Caravan, Pilatus Porter, Avanti Helicopter, Diamond, Viper, and Air Tractor. Susi Air operates flights from main bases in Medan (North Sumatra), Jakarta, Kendari and Balikpapan (Kalimantan), Bandung, and Pangandaran (West Java), Cilacap (Central Java), and Papua,”
So this is the behind-scene story of the iconic airlines in Indonesia which is not just a money-making business but a great example that yet; humanitarian values are not dead. I hope more airlines take a giant leap to help humans each other than focusing on just gaining money.