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Resto Thomas Aquino Jehabut: Finding happiness in the air

Markus Makur
Markus Makur

The Jakarta Post

Labuan Bajo | Thu, December 14, 2017 | 09:39 am
Resto Thomas Aquino Jehabut: Finding happiness in the air

A ring of trust: An elder from the customary village places a ring on Resto during the ceremony. (JP/Markus Makur)

A young man has the simple wish to be helpful for other people. Growing up, he becomes a pilot.

At the age of just 17, Resto Thomas Aquino Jehabut became the first pilot from West Manggarai in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

Attending junior and senior high school at seminary institutions, his aspiration changed when he became acquainted with the internet, which sparked in him an interest in delving into cinematography. Until, that is, a divine call seems to have guided him to a profession he had never dreamed of: that of a pilot.

Born on Jan. 28, 1999, in Timika, Papua, Resto went to kindergarten and primary school by motorcycle taxi.

“It might be due to my frequent trips by this means that, when my father asked me what I wanted to be as an adult, I said I would be a motorcycle taxi driver,” Resto said during an interview in Kampung Mbrata, Macang Tanggar village, Mbeliling district, West Manggarai, Flores, NTT.

Resto studied at the Junior High School of Tuke Seminary in Bali for two years before being expelled over mischievous conduct. During adolescence, despite his academic achievement, he displayed misbehavior, such as habitually being late for school and church and being involved in quarrels with friends.

“What is deeply ingrained in me from my seminary study is to lead a praying life, which is something I still practice today,” he said.

He moved to St. Maria Timika Junior High School to finish his third year of high school. It was at this school that he tried to pull himself around by studying hard. He later continued his studies at the St. Petrus Claver Seminary in Makassar, as recommended by his uncle, who lived Makassar. At that school, he honed his discipline and academic excellence to prove that his character had improved very much from the days when he was at Tuke Seminary.

Blessings: An elder from a customary village welcomes Resto during a traditional ceremony held for his naming as the youngest pilot in Kampung Mbrata, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara.Blessings: An elder from a customary village welcomes Resto during a traditional ceremony held for his naming as the youngest pilot in Kampung Mbrata, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara. (JP/Markus Makur)

Resto attributes his academic success to his father, Kanisius Jehabut, and mother, Cicilia Pawara, who have worked hard in their life. After he graduated from the seminary in Makassar, a friend of his father suggested that they check out the Genesa Flight Academy in Jakarta.

In June 2016, Resto was accompanied by his father to go to Jakarta to visit the private flight school. However, after less than a week in Jakarta, they got sick and were treated at St. Carolus Hospital in Salemba, Central Jakarta. His father was diagnosed with dengue fever and Resto was diagnosed with malaria.

After recovering, they finally visited the flight school, and Resto confirmed his interest in studying aviation. The family went back to Manggarai for a traditional ceremony to ask for God’s blessings, before returning to Jakarta for Resto to apply for the school.

Resto passed all the admission tests, including the psychological and medical examinations, English, math and physics. In early August 2016, he began his training at the flight academy.

“My father told me this was not an ordinary school, but an extraordinary one, because the cost is very high. He told me, “I do not have that much money yet, but I have a strong will and determination,” Resto said, adding that his parents believed he would not fail.

Resto received a scholarship from the Mimika regency administration, where his father works as a police officer, tribunnews.com reported.  

To reduce his expenses, he stayed at a boarding room in Jati Waringin, East Jakarta, only about 100 meters from the flight school. At first, he felt inferior, as most students came from Jakarta, although there was a female student from Wamena and a male student from Jayapura, Papua. They belonged to the tenth batch, comprising 13 students.

The first month’s subject was radiotelephony, or communication with the air traffic controller (ATC) in English. He gradually built up his self-confidence and kept reminding himself of his parents’ hard work to send him to the academy. He scored the highest mark in the radiotelephony exam with 94 points.

On Sept. 10, 2016, the students went to Cilacap, Central Java, for flight training. In the first stage, they practiced on flight simulators three times a week.

“We learned how to control the plane, how to take off, fly and land. We were familiarized with maneuvering techniques, and the screen in front displayed an image of being in the air,” he said.

In the second week they entered the pre-solo flight phase, along with their instructors. On his initial attempt, Resto was guided by Capt. Wined Rerung, a native of Toraja. For Resto, this became an unforgettable memory.

From zero to hero: At the age of just 17, Resto Thomas Aquino Jehabut (center) has been named the first pilot from West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, during a ceremony in Manggarai.From zero to hero: At the age of just 17, Resto Thomas Aquino Jehabut (center) has been named the first pilot from West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, during a ceremony in Manggarai. (JP/Markus Makur)

Anxiety kept Resto up until rather late at night. In the morning, he had a fitness exercise, before going to the flight operation room, where everything was prepared, including the checklist and weather monitor, and then proceeding to the apron. All the students examined the plane’s external conditions, such as wings and tires, to make sure no parts were damaged.

He started flying at 7 a.m. on the route from Cilacap to Nusa Wiru in West Java, a flight of about 20 minutes, at an altitude of 3,000 feet. He was flying a four-seat Cessna 172.

“I was very happy during my debut flight. It was intense, but my heart was so happy. While in the air, I had my turn to control [the plane], and the instructor took over to land. We were taught what to do in an emergency, such as engine trouble while flying,” he said.

Resto said the most critical phase was landing a plane. Pre-solo students are familiar with the saying, “even a monkey can fly,” meaning it’s very easy to fly an aircraft, but when it comes to landing, not everyone is capable.

After his graduation, a celebration was held in Kampung Mbrata. Resto said he would work as a pilot for the Mimika regency administration. The young man is just about to begin his long journey.

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