SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A Malaysia-registered civilian helicopter, which mistakenly entered Singapore airspace without authorisation on Aug 9, had “no malicious intent”, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a written reply to a parliamentary question.
Giving details of the incident where two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to handle the intrusion, Dr Ng said the helicopter had been contracted to take photographs of a Malaysian-registered oil rig. The rig was being transported from Pasir Gudang in Johor Baru to Miri in Sarawak.
Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) had asked whether the safety of any aircraft had been compromised at any point by this incident, and what measures will be implemented to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
Dr Ng said: “Our assessment is that there was no malicious intent arising from this incident.”
The helicopter flew from Senai International Airport in JB and headed towards Pengerang, in south-east Johor.
During its flight, the helicopter transited the Changi Control Zone, and subsequently entered Singapore Territorial Airspace without prior notification, he added. Singapore’s air traffic control did not receive any flight plan.
As the helicopter had entered Singapore’s territorial airspace at 12.37pm “unannounced”, the two fighter jets were scrambled – a response that Dr Ng said was “consistent with our standard operating procedures for unidentified aircraft in our airspace which may pose potential threats”.
“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, added Dr Ng.
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.