Haze from forest fires on Sumatra Island blanketing Batam, Riau Islands, since Tuesday morning, has drastically reduced visibility from 10,000 meters under normal conditions to only 2,500 meters.
The low visibility has forced airplanes to be extra careful when landing at Hang Nadim International Airport. The airport's flight safety head, Indah Irwansyah, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that such low visibility was triggered by haze from forest fires, especially from Riau.
'Based on a report from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency [BMKG], the haze originated from 94 hotspots and spread to Batam via westerly winds,' said Irwansyah.
According to him, a number of flights requested the Air Traffic Control ( ATC ) to switch on the runway lights to the maximum level to aid the landing process, such as a Lion Air flight JT 971 from Surabaya, which landed at
'The runway lights are activated at night or during the day for emergencies, such as during heavy rain, fog and haze. Perhaps the Lion Air pilot wanted to make a good landing, especially after the incident in Bali,' said Irwansyah.
Besides Lion Air, he added, a helicopter also requested for the runway lights to be turned on for better visibility.
'However, visibility at airports in Pekanbaru and Jambi remains normal, based on the accounts of a Sky Aviation pilot who flew from Pekanbaru to Batam. He said he was surprised with the situation and asked ATC officers where the haze came from,' Irwansyah said.
According to Irwansyah, despite being equipped with the Instrument Landing System ( ILS ), the airport runway lights will be activated upon request from pilots.
Flight traffic at the airport, however, remains normal. There have been no flight delays or cancellations. However, airport authorities will take measures if visibility drops to 1,000 meters.
Meanwhile, limited visibility has not hindered sea transportation, according to Azhar, secretary of the Batam chapter of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association ( INSA ).
'It is not yet necessary to halt sea transportation as long as the vessels are traveling carefully,' Azhar was quoted as saying by Antara news agency.
An officer with the Hang Nadim weather station, Tri Agus, said the current visibility of between 2,000 meters to 3,000 meters was below the safe shipping visibility level of 5,000 meters.