Pilot Spotlight - Alida Soemawinata

January 23, 2023

Here at Spidertracks, we’re always in contact with our customers and are privileged to hear about some of the adventures undertaken around the world. We’re starting a Pilot Spotlight series, where we share unique stories, first-hand, straight from the cockpit!

Our first pilot showcase is Alida Soemawinata. Alida grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where her first time in a helicopter was during an Air Training Corps camp when she was 13 years old. They took her up in a RAAF SAR helicopter and she’s been in the industry ever since!

Read on to learn more about Alida and her story.

Tell us a little about yourself - what made you want to get into the aviation industry?

I’m one of five kids, and we all had an interest in the military from a young age. Each of us joined Cadets, either with the Navy, Air force or Army Cadets. I became an Air Cadet, so that afforded me a lot of travelling on activities and different camps. Some included flying in planes and helicopters, so that sort of sparked it, I guess!

What ratings do you currently have?

At the moment, I'm flying full time in the BO 105, which is my first multi-engine. It's all day VFR flying, as I don't have my IFR rating. Back in Australia, I was flying the AS350 Squirrel, the B206 Jet Ranger and the Long Ranger. And of course I've got the H300 and R44 from when I did my initial licence as well. Fun fact, I’m actually kind of afraid of heights! I like low flying around 500-1500ft off the deck.

What’s your favourite aircraft to fly, and why?

I have to say the Squirrel - that has been my ultimate dream since I first saw one. I just love them, the power ratio, the loads they can take, the versatility - from charter and film, to fires. They can go anywhere! I trained in the H300, I chose it over the R22 because it was the closest to the Squirrel with three rotor blades and manual throttle control, and from there, I moved on to the R44, the Jet Ranger, then the Squirrel, and now, the Bolkow.

How do you keep calm under pressure?

Knowing I’ve planned and prepped as much as I can. If you get too comfortable in it, then you can get complacent - that's when accidents can happen, you know? So I wouldn't say I'm ever comfortable in it. Certainly the best thing is just to plan and have a range of scenarios practiced. Ask everyone who's been [there], or any other pilots who have flown the same routes, anyone that's got experience in the area - do research on power lines or mountains or the odd trees. Especially in this area now that I've moved into, a lot of it is remote work.

I pick the brains of the pilots that have done it before me, and they say okay, this site, watch out for this, watch out for that, and even now, the sites can change. Now we’ve got villages and dealing with people; they might have a boat out on the landing area or the tin roofs may be loose, they might be building a house and there're loose materials around.

 How do you give your passengers peace of mind?

It really starts with the ground crew - they might give them information about the flight and the pilot they're flying with, and then of course, when they get on board, it's the welcome, and giving them that personal assurance. We're gonna have a great day, we're gonna go see this, go do that. It’s also your tour voice, with a calm yet exciting tone. You can sort of look over your shoulder and make sure everyone's doing okay and get the thumbs up from people on board too, and interact in that way as well. It’s almost the same flying EMS in Sarawak, even with the language barrier it’s the pilot demeanour that puts passengers at ease. Professional and with a confident smile.

 How did you choose which flight school to go with, and why?

Of course the number one factor I looked at was pricing. Luckily in Melbourne, there's quite a few options for schools. So firstly I looked at pricing, but then I looked at what you actually got for the lesson, where it was located, you know, there's a training area. So do you fly to and from the training area or is the school already at the training area, different benefits that sort of thing. Then comes talking to pilots, where they started, other schools they've come from, you know, before they got their job as an instructor. What other flying do they do. For me, it might have been a little bit more expensive or a little bit of a longer road, but the school that I chose had a great career pathway offered.

What’s the most enjoyable part about what you do?

It changes depending on the job. I like being able to successfully achieve tasks. I did a lot of scenic work the last few years, so a lot of that was just making sure that the passengers were happy - you know, giving them a good flight experience, making sure the tour was enjoyable, making memories. The survey work or Medical flights I want to make sure that they achieve what they need to - both efficiently and effectively. Making a positive impact on others, that makes me happy.

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