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August 24, 2020, 09.32 PM

JAKARTA, – The first turboprop aircraft made in Indonesia once soared in the air, but it did not fulfill its initial purpose of connecting many islands in the country because of the 1998 financial crisis.

Gatotkaca N-250, however, will be on display at a Yogyakarta museum in Central Java after it sat for over two decades in a hangar in West Java.

The aircraft, which was transported overland from the state-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI)’s hangar in Bandung, arrived in the Central Museum of Indonesian Air Force Dirgantara Mandala in Yogyakarta on August 21.

“The N-250 aircraft will become one of the collections of the planes in Indonesia,” said Air Force Spokesman First Marshal Fajar Adriyanto at the Dirgantara Mandala Central Museum on August 21.

“In the museum, we have 59 in the collection of planes from various countries. The N-250 aircraft is the 60th and this is made in Indonesia,” Fajar said.

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Fajar said one of the reasons for moving the aircraft to the museum was to showcase the country’s achievement in the aerospace field. He added this was initiated by the Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto when he was still Air Force Chief of Staff.

It was previously reported that the making of the N-250 series was directly led by the then Indonesian minister of research and technology in the new order era, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who later became the president. At the time, Habibie wanted Indonesia to build its aircraft so that the archipelagic country can be connected by air.

The N-250 aircraft was built in 1986 and made its first flight in 1995. Initially, it was designed as a 30-seat aircraft but was later changed to a 50-seat configuration.

Unfortunately, Habibie’s dream of producing more N-250 aircraft was put on hold following the Asian financial crisis that hit Indonesia badly in 1998. The government terminated the project on the suggestion of the International Monetary Fund.

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Kompas newspaper reported on August 10, 1995, the process to manufacture the N-250 aircraft to the prototype stage was stopped due to the crisis. The project needed an investment of $650 million.

The crisis also led to mass layoffs at the state-owned manufacturer. About 15,700 employees lost their jobs in 1997. Currently, PTDI only employs 4,200 people.

The N-250 is known as the only turboprop plane in the world that uses fly-by-wire system — a flight-control system in which controls are operated electrically, not mechanically — with about 900 flight hours.

Turboprop utilized gas turbine to move its propeller. The fly-by-wire technology can protect the pilot from dangerous maneuvers. Its electronic system makes maintenance efficient. The flight speed of the Gatotkaca N-250 aircraft can reach 610 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, the operating altitude reaches 25,000 feet with a cruising range of 1,480 kilometers.

The then-president Soeharto was glad to see the N-250 aircraft took off for the first time on August 10, 1995 at Husein Sastranegara Airport in Bandung. The event was also held in conjunction with Indonesia’s 50th Independence Day.

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Thousands of people flocked to the airport to witness the first flight of the first plane made in Indonesia. The cheers and applause echoed when the N-250 piloted by Erwin Danuwinata took off. It was broadcast by state television TVRI.

President Soeharto, who was also in attendance at the time, wiped his tears of joy with a handkerchief several times. He immediately hugged Habibie who was standing next to him.

“We can walk with our head held high together with other nations,” Kompas newspaper on August 11, 1995 quoted Habibie as saying.

“The success of the N-250 trial is not mine, but it belongs to the next generation. This achievement does not matter to me, but this is important for the next generation,” Habibie added.

It was a proud moment for everyone including technicians and engineers who witnessed the smooth landing of the aircraft at Husein Sastranegara Airport after a 56-minute flight.

“The success of the N-250 flight test was a milestone for the Indonesians as we managed to design our aircraft. This was the product of IPTN [the then PTDI) and the Indonesian people,” President Soeharto said at the time.

He added that with such achievement, Indonesia could reduce its reliance on foreign countries. “I extend my highest appreciation to IPTN. Hopefully, this will be the pride of Indonesia and other developing nations,” he added.

The two Indonesian leaders, Soeharto and Habibie passed away in 2008 and 2019, respectively.

(Writer: Muhammad Idris | Editor: Muhammad Idris)


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