Singapore airport faces airspace challenge 

Malaysia says it wants to take control of the airspace over south Johor that has been controlled by Singapore since 1974 after new flight paths were proposed over Seletar airport near the border with Johor. 

Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke told MPs today (Tuesday) that Malaysia had told Singapore it did not agree to the new flight paths because “it will stunt development” around the Pasir Gudang industrial district, limit building heights. However, Singapore was pushing ahead with the plans for a January implementation, regardless of Putrajaya’s concerns, he said. 

Loke said the flight paths would impose height restrictions on Malaysian buildings, lower residents’ quality of life and affect the operation of the port. 

Malaysian budget airline Firefly, which exclusively operates turboprop planes, recently suspended its operations to Singapore after it failed to get approval from the Malaysian authorities to relocate operations from Changi airport to Seletar.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia said it was “willing to work with Singapore on the regulatory issues related to Singapore’s plan to move Firefly operations from Changi to Seletar, including on outstanding airspace issues”.

Loke told MPs: “This contradicts the principle of national sovereignty provided for under the Convention on International Civil Aviation. 

“The Foreign Ministry will issue a protest note to Singapore immediately concerning this breach of sovereignty,” he added. 

Loke said Malaysia had informed Singapore that it wanted to take back control of its airspace, ceded to the Lion City in 1974, in stages between next year and 2023. 

The commercial Seletar airport in northeastern Singapore is just 2km from the Johor border.

“It is not our stance to take a confrontational approach with any party, much less our neighbours. But this involves our sovereignty, which the Malaysian government will defend in the strongest terms. This involves our airspace, which we will defend, and the interest of Johoreans,” the minister added.

He said the government would voice its unhappiness at Singapore’s decision to operate its instrument landing system (ILS) for Seletar near the border with Johor. 

The Straits Times reported in November that all operations at Seletar airport had moved to a new terminal, after the old building, which started handling civil flights 50 years ago, had been closed. 

The new terminal is divided between commercial flights and another section for chartered business flights and private jets.

The surrounding Seletar Aerospace Park reportedly houses more than 60 aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul firms.

Since 2008, Seletar‘s runway has been lengthened, a control tower and fire station have been built and the aircraft parking aprons have been enlarged. 


Singapore’s airspace is crowded. Picture credit: PXHere