SINGAPORE: It is necessary for Singapore to put in place instrument flight procedures for both the northerly and southerly approaches into Seletar Airport, said Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Wednesday (Dec 12).
It was responding to a statement from Malaysia’s transport ministry earlier in the day, which called on Singapore to implement "new Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures" on the southern side of Seletar Airport as opposed to the northern side.
Malaysia had objected to Singapore’s publication of the ILS procedures, saying it would restrict the construction of tall buildings at Johor's Pasir Gudang, to the north of Seletar Airport.
In response to media queries, Singapore’s MOT said: “Flight procedures for both directions are necessary because aircraft land and take off into the wind. In this region, winds blow from a north-easterly direction for half of the year, and a south-westerly direction for the other half of the year.
“Therefore, flight procedures for a southerly approach cannot safely replace all flight procedures for the northerly approach.”
It added that this was communicated to Malaysia on Nov 29, during a meeting between the civil aviation authorities of both countries.
The ILS procedure refers to an assisted navigational aviation facility at the airport which provides precision vertical and horizontal guidance to flights descending and approaching the runway.
In response to Malaysia’s allegation that ILS procedures for the northerly approach into Seletar Airport amounts to a “clear violation of Malaysia sovereignty and international law and standards”, MOT said: “This is also not true.”
It reiterated on Wednesday that cross-border airspace management is not incompatible with sovereignty.
“The nature of international civil aviation is such that flights have to traverse the airspace of different states. It is not uncommon for flight procedures to/from airports in one state, especially those near other states, to traverse the territories of neighbouring states,” MOT said.
“This does not entail a violation of the sovereignty of the states being overflown. The instrument flight procedures for some Malaysian airports also extend into the territories of neighbouring states.”
Under the current arrangement, management of the airspace over southern Johor is delegated to Singapore, meaning that Singapore provides air traffic control services in that airspace.
This arrangement was agreed upon in 1973 by Malaysia, Singapore and other regional states, and subsequently approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). A bilateral agreement was then signed between Malaysia and Singapore in 1974 to operationalise the agreement.
Malaysia had announced last Tuesday that it wants to reclaim its "delegated airspace" in southern Johor, citing concerns over sovereignty and national interest.
It had at the same time objected to Singapore's publication of ILS procedures for Seletar Airport.
“The ILS procedures for Seletar Airport were published in accordance with Singapore’s responsibilities under the relevant ICAO requirements as well as the bilateral arrangements with Malaysia,” said MOT.
“Singapore had nonetheless consulted Malaysia since December 2017 in the spirit of goodwill. Malaysia has never raised any objections to the existing flight profile in place for Seletar Airport which the ILS procedures adhere to. They provide an additional tool for the safe and efficient operation of aircraft, for the benefit of all.”
The ministry added that Singapore is prepared to “discuss Malaysia’s technical concerns in good faith”, in the spirit of cooperation and mutual benefit.
Both countries are also locked in a maritime dispute after Malaysia unilaterally extended its Johor Bahru port limits in a manner which, according to the Singapore government, "encroaches into Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas".