Singapore clears Malaysian-registered helicopter in August 9 airspace intrusion of ‘malicious intent’

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — Singapore has clarified that a Malaysian-registered civilian helicopter that mistakenly entered the island nation’s airspace without authorisation last month had “no malicious intent”, reported Singaporean media outlet The Straits Times.

Singapore defence minister Dr Ng Eng Hen had, in a written reply to a parliamentary question, said the helicopter had been contracted to take photographs of a Malaysia-registered oil rig on August 9.

The rig was being transported from Pasir Gudang in Johor Baru to Miri in Sarawak.

The helicopter had taken off from Senai International Airport in Johor Baru and was headed towards Pengerang, in south-east Johor.

Dr Ng said that during its flight, the helicopter transited the Changi Control Zone, and subsequently entered Singapore Territorial Airspace without prior notification. Singapore’s air traffic control did not receive any flight plan.

Dr Ng said that two Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighter jets were deployed to handle the intrusion.

As the helicopter had entered Singapore’s territorial airspace at 12.37pm “unannounced”, the two fighter jets were scrambled — a response “consistent with our standard operating procedures for unidentified aircraft in our airspace which may pose potential threats”, he added.

Dr Ng made the reply to Tanjong Pagar group representation constituencies Joan Pereira who had asked whether the safety of any aircraft had been compromised at any point by the incident, and what measures will be implemented to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

“Our assessment is that there was no malicious intent arising from this incident,” Dr Ng was quoted as saying.

“The helicopter pilot was instructed to keep clear of Singapore Territorial Airspace and to operate eastwards outside Singapore’s territorial airspace.”

At 1.03pm, the helicopter left Singapore’s territorial airspace. After ensuring that there were no further security threats, the RSAF F-16s subsequently stood down at 2.05pm, Dr Ng said.

He said that while there was “no imminent impact of safety” on civilian air traffic during the time that the helicopter was in the Changi Control Zone, the airspace around Changi Airport had to be closed to respond to the unauthorised entry.

As a result, he said 36 flights arriving at and eight departing flights from Changi Airport were delayed.