The Johor-Singapore airspace conflict: Why Malaysia is standing firm

Transport Minister Anthony Loke has urged Singapore to withdraw the ILS announcement and to amend the flight path as per Malaysia's request. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Transport Minister Anthony Loke has urged Singapore to withdraw the ILS announcement and to amend the flight path as per Malaysia's request. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Transport Minister Anthony Loke posted a short video on his Facebook page last night explaining Malaysia’s move to reclaim its southern airspace over Johor and its objection to the Instrument Landing System (ILS) at Singapore’s Seletar Airport.

While the Singapore government has sought to portray Malaysia as a bully by suddenly seeking to take back the Johor airspace relegated to the republic since 1974, the video shows the stakes Malaysia risks losing if it concedes.

“Hi Singapore, Seletar Airport is yours, but Pasir Gudang, Johor, Malaysia is ours. So please hear us out.

“To Malaysians, please watch and share this — there are reasons why Malaysia has to oppose the ILS (Instrument Landing System) of the Seletar Airport which Singapore wants to implement from 3 Jan 2019,” Loke said in his Facebook post accompanying the video.

The 1.34-minute starts by highlighting Firefly’s suspension of all its flights into Singapore after it was told to relocate to Seletar Airport from December 1, by pointing out Malaysia’s opposition to the ILS that Singapore wants to use from January 3 next year.

The video explained that the flight path used by the ILS — a precision runway approach system that makes it safer for planes to land even with poor visibility — will encroach into Malaysian airspace.

Singapore’s Seletar Airport is merely 2km from Malaysia’s Pasir Gudang.

Screen capture of the video showing the side view of the flight path.
Screen capture of the video showing the side view of the flight path.

That means all planes that are to land at the Singapore airport will have to go in from over Pasir Gudang in Johor, which is Malaysian airspace.

The video also explains the height buffer of between 54 metres and 154 metres from a distance of 3km and 6km from the Seletar Airport runway, and which would subject Malaysia’s Pasir Gudang Port to higher risks and multiple restrictions.

The height limits means that even a mobile crane, which have a height of 103 metres, would be in the way of any descending plane’s flight path, and there are many tall buildings in Johor.

“We can’t even build tall buildings in Pasir Gudang if we allow that flight path,” Loke said in the video.

The video showed that the impacted area in Johor would cover Pasir Gudang on the state’s south-east tip and all the way up north to Ayer Tawar, almost to Kota Tinggi.

“Our position is very clear. We are not against Seletar, but as far as the descending flight path is concerned, it cannot be over Pasir Gudang.”

The video highlighted that previously, pilots who flew into and out of the Seletar Airport would be able to manoeuvre around obstacles.

It pointed out that there was no need for any height regulations around flight path area either.

But with the Seletar Airport planning to use the ILS from January 3, height restrictions would be compulsory and Malaysia would face restrictions to development and shipping operations even on its own territory, contrary to the Singapore government’s argument otherwise.

The Singapore Ministry of Transport had claimed the ILS for Seletar had been issued months prior and would not negatively impact other airspace users or businesses in Johor.

“We urge Singapore to withdraw the ILS announcement and to amend the flight path as per our request,” Loke reiterated in his concluding message.

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