SIA Pilot, Capt. Budi Soehardi: CNN Hero of 2009

Budi Soehardi, one of the nominated CNN heroes (currently he's one of Top 10 Heroes of 2009!), must be glad that SIA "has thrown a lifeline to him (and the 51 young lives that depend on him)" by extending his contract.

The way I see it is that it works both way also for SIA. If Budi Soehardi will indeed win the top prize, I'm sure the CNN publication will not forget to mention how SIA has done right in the past of allowing Budi Soehardi to continue his work as a pilot for SIA. (Yes, in this CNN article, "Pilot moonlights as father to 47", SIA name was not mentioned at all.)

Vote Budi Soehardi as the Hero of 2009 here.

Barely a week ago, Captain Budi Soehardi was busy looking for a job with other airlines – the pilot's contract with Singapore Airlines was expiring on Nov 11, and it was not going to be renewed.

But SIA has thrown a lifeline to him – and to the 51 young lives that depend on him.

The Indonesian expatriate, 57, who was named last month as one of CNN's Top 10 Heroes of 2009, is one of an undisclosed number of captains who has gotten a contract extension.

Mr Budi was already moving house – it was the only way he would have been able to keep his West Timor orphanage afloat in the long term without a job.

About 80 per cent of the US$6,000 ($8,312) needed monthly to care for the orphanage's 48 children comes solely from the pocket of the father of three.

His redundancy was typical of cost-cutting measures in a recession – SIA had to "significantly reduce capacity" earlier this year, leading to "excess staff resources" and employees having to "make sacrifices through salary reductions", such as a shorter work month.

For cockpit crew, there were plans "not to extend the contracts of any of our captains employed under contract arrangements this financial year, and they were made aware of this".

However an SIA spokesperson said when contacted by MediaCorp, that "based on our latest operating plan, we're pleased to be able to offer contract extensions to some of our captains".

Air Line Pilots Association-Singapore president P James welcomed the news. "It's good that the company was willing to change their policy. At least, there's light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

While Mr Budi was not mentioned by name in SIA's reply, a fellow pilot who did not want to be named let on that a group of pilots had petitioned the company to consider his renewal.

"He's a valuable employee of the company – his suggestions and research for different airways to Europe saved the airline a million-plus dollars annually," said the colleague.

Mr Budi's contract has been renewed for another three years. MediaCorp understands that there were up to 1,000 signatories for the pilot who could end the year on another bright note if he is named CNN's Hero of 2009.

He could not be reached as he was travelling, but he wrote this about his "CNN classmates" on his blog on Friday: "We are not competing but we are partners to make the human race to be living as a normal human being."

From Channel NewsAsia, "CNN hero flies again with SIA".

At Roslin Orphanage, children giggle through deep concentration as they try to master the "Chicken Dance." It's a far cry from the Indonesian orphans' earlier months and years.

They are cheerful-looking and photogenic, but close to all have a very sad story," said Budi Soehardi, founder of the West Timor orphanage.

"Some of the babies come because a mother passes away right after delivery because of lack of nutrition. Others come from extreme poverty. Some come from families [that] just do not want the children and abandon them," he said. Vote now for the CNN Hero of the Year

Soehardi, a 53-year-old Indonesian pilot living in Singapore, and his wife, Peggy, look after 47 children at the orphanage. They have a personal relationship with each one, and consider them part of their family. The couple named many of the children since they entered the orphanage as babies -- some of them tiny victims and refugees from the conflict in East Timor.

Partially quoted from CNN, "Pilot moonlights as father to 47".

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