A surprise visitor to the show yesterday was former president of Indonesia, Dr B.J. Habibie, who was also president of the country's state aircraft manufacturer IPTN.

Dr Habibie was here with sons Ilham and Thareq and the trio gave a personal update on their links with the business.

Both Habibie senior and Ilham maintain close links with the management of IPTN - now known as Dirgantara Indonesia - and are keen to mobilise their personal resources to maintain the momentum of the company, albeit on the scaled-down version forced by the Asian currency crisis.

Staffing at IPTN, peaked at 15,000, dropped to under 10,000 and will be cut further.

Ilham Habibie said the move is a step toward potential privatisation of the business. It is currently restructuring bank debts under government jurisdiction.

He says the company is keeping its head above water financially with revenues this year projected at more than $100 million.

Dr Habibie demonstrated his usual exuberance for the future of the Indonesian aircraft enterprise, using a wartime analogy for the country, which he said would need turboprop transport aircraft.

"Anyone who said in 1945 that Germany and Japan would become the economic powerhouses they are today would have been described as mad. And we have not suffered the same levels of destruction."

The Habibies confirmed that the focus would be on continued development of the CN235 programme with domestic and strategic national partners being prime customers. Investors are still being sought for the almost $100 million in funds needed to continue with its certification programme. Flight testing of the aircraft was frozen in 1998.The development programme ran into trouble when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked further government support for IPTN as a condition of its $40 billion-plus rescue package for Indonesia.

A cautious approach is being taken to licenced rotary wing manufacturer, while leverage of the company's engineering infrastructure will see maintenance related work increase.

Source: Flight Daily News