A small plane carrying Riau Islands Governor Ismeth Abdullah had to circle for two hours after going off-course into a neighboring province before eventually landing safely, officials said Tuesday.
The incident was blamed on the plane's faulty navigational system and a lack of flight navigation facilities at Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam, Riau Islands.
Airport flight safety task force head Elfi Amir said the incident took place on Sunday, and had involved a chartered Cassa 212 Sabang Merauke Air Charter (SMAC) plane carrying Ismeth and 13 agency heads on an official regional visit.
The plane took off at 8:10 a.m. from Fisabillah Airport in Tanjung Pinang, heading to Sei Bati Airport in Karimun regency, and should have landed around 15 minutes later.
"The airport manager at Karimun reported to me that the plane had been in the air for an hour but had not landed.
"I reported this to the Singaporean flight authority and they said the plane had gone off course over Sumatra," Elfi said.
Flight communications between planes in the Riau Islands territory are under the control of the Singaporean government because none of the airports in the province are equipped with radar and are within the Singapore Flight Information Region (FIR), she said. "The Singaporean Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) at Hang Nadim were able to guide the plane to land at 10:38 a.m.. We are not equipped with radars so we couldn't do it," Elfi said.
The plane had failed to land in Karimun because its Global Positioning System was not functioning properly, she said.
Such an incident could have been avoided if airports in Riau Islands were equipped with radars, Elfi said.
Riau Islands spokesman Irmansyah said the governor had used the plane for a working visit. According to his schedule, Ismeth was due to visit three regencies by plane.
"Our territory is clearly vast, and sea transportation has limitations when we need to reach areas in a short amount of time. Air travel is a vital means of transportation here," Irmansyah said. Riau Islands has been included under the Singapore FIR for many years. According to plans, Indonesia will eventually take over the program, as regulated in Law No. 1/2009 on flight.
Indonesia's rights over the airspace in Riau Islands have been dominated by Singapore, thus restricting the use of the aerial territory for Indonesian interests, particularly military exercises.
Hang Nadim airport manager Hendro Harijono said recently that based on Law No. 1/2009 on flight, the entire territory of Indonesia, in this case the Riau Islands province, should be included in the Indonesian FIR, so it should be returned to Indonesia this year after being under Singapore's FIR for so long.
"Riau Islands has discussed the handover with Singapore. Based on the flight law, the entire Indonesian territory should be included in one FIR, so we would realize the takeover this year," Hendro said.
Riau Islands province had been included in the Singapore FIR because of its lack of equipment and inability to provide accurate flight information in the area, he said.
Also, based on regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the closest country equipped with a sophisticated navigation system must provide flight information to neighboring regions, he said.