Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020

New landing system for Seletar Airport doesn't impose new height restrictions: Experts

Experts weighing in on Singapore’s plans to introduce a new landing system for Seletar Airport said that this will not affect the current height restrictions for planes coming in.

Neither will it hamper the development of Johor’s Pasir Gudang Port.

The main change from introducing an Instrument Landing System (ILS) is that pilots will be guided using ground instruments so that they no longer have to rely on just their vision.

This is because an ILS system offers a more precise landing path, the experts said.

Experts that The Straits Times spoke to pointed out several inaccuracies in the 90-second video posted by Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke on his Facebook page.

In the video, Mr Loke insisted that Singapore’s plans for the Seletar ILS would mean that Pasir Gudang Port would encounter higher risks due to the height restrictions.

He said that with the ILS, structures 3km away from Seletar Airport cannot be built higher than 54m, while structures 6km away cannot be taller than 145m.

He said: “Even a crane would break the height limit. We can’t even build tall buildings over Pasir Gudang if we allow that flight path.”

But the experts said that with the ILS, the height limit 3km away from Seletar is in fact 93.8m. At 6km away, it is 193.1m.

With a layer of safety barrier added to that, the actual approach path for flights coming into Seletar would reach a height of 200.5m at 3km away from the airport – the same as it is today.

The flight path and height limits are in accordance with safety and operational standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Their other observations on the video:

  • Mr Loke said the flight path prevents the construction of tall buildings over Pasir Gudang. But the experts said existing tall buildings directly below the current Seletar flight path have been taken into account in the design of the ILS procedures. The Straits Times understands that the Singapore authorities have not been informed of any new developments being planned in Pasir Gudang that could significantly affect the flight profile for Seletar flights. Under ICAO standards, countries are required to provide early notification of proposed future developments so that flight procedures can be adjusted if necessary.
  • With the proposed ILS, Pasir Gudang Port will be subjected to higher risks, Mr Loke said. Not true, said experts. For more than three decades, Singapore has safely managed the nexus between aircraft operations and ships transiting the Johor Strait to Pasir Gudang Port. Systems such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore Vessel Height Measuring System are in place to safeguard both aviation and maritime activities. Flights get held back while tall vessels cross the Strait of Johor.
  • Mr Loke said that currently, pilots can manoeuvre around obstacles and no height regulation is required around flight path area. Compulsory height restrictions will kick in for ILS, he added. There will be no new height restrictions, said the experts. ICAO standards require all airports to mitigate the impact of tall buildings on aviation safety. This is regardless of ILS or visual landing systems.
  • In his video, Mr Loke said that with the ILS at Seletar, flight restrictions would impact a large area, from Pasir Gudang up north to Ayer Tawar (Johor) and almost to Kota Tinggi. The picture is somewhat misleading and should be viewed from a three-dimensional perspective, the experts said. The slope of the ILS surface steadily increases the farther it extends from the airport. This means that the farther it is from the airport, the less impact it will have on ground developments. For example, at Ayer Tawar, aircraft will be flying at the height of 1km.
  • Malaysia has nothing against Seletar Airport but cannot allow flights to descend over Pasir Gudang, Mr Loke said, urging Singapore to withdraw the ILS and to amend the flight path for entry from the southern end. But approaches from both directions are needed as wind direction changes through the year.

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