Awaiting a National Airspace Management Law

Chappy Hakim Air Force Chief of Staff (2002-2005), author of Tanah Air Udaraku Indonesia (“My Aerial Homeland, Indonesia”)

IO – The real problems currently facing Indonesia in the aerospace sector boil down to several issues. First, there has yet to be a national awareness of the importance of national airspace as an integral part of a country’s sovereignty. Airspace is yet to be seen as a natural resource, with enormous potential and as an important asset in national defense and security. As a consequence, there is no clarity until today as to who or which institution is responsible for managing Indonesian airspace.

In the 1945 Constitution – which has been amended several times – the airspace above the territory of the Republic of Indonesia is not or has not been clearly stated as a sovereign part of Indonesia. Furthermore, there is still widespread confusion in national aviation management, both in civil and military aviation. Some problems pertaining to the use of airports and military air bases have not been completely resolved. Likewise, there is still national airspace that is not fully under the management of the national aviation authority. On the other hand, violations of airspace committed by many foreign aircraft crossing into Indonesian airspace without permission have not been properly addressed, either in terms of prevention or more importantly law enforcement, when action has been taken against violators.

Indeed, since 1955 the National Aviation Council has planned to appoint a designated institution to be tasked with managing Indonesian airspace. On February 3, 1955, through Government Regulation No. 5/1955, an agency called the Aviation Council was established. This was a brilliant step driven by a grand vision, because in 1955 the Republic of Indonesia as vast archipelagic country with large population has had an Aviation Council before a Maritime Council. It’s astounding, because Indonesia had just joined the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in May 1950 and in 1955 it had already begun drafting aviation laws of its own.

In a later development, based on Government Regulation No. 24/1963, the Indonesian National Aviation and Outer Space Council was established. And in 1993 the President of the Republic of Indonesia issued a decree on the formation of the Indonesian National Aviation Council (Depanri). However, it was officially dissolved on December 4, 2014 based on Government Regulation No. 176/2014. This saw the death of a special body envisioned to handle the management of national air space. Very ironic indeed, especially when seen from an aerospace perspective. A forward-looking attitude in the early days of independence where the founding fathers had realized how important and strategic national airspace is as an integral part of national sovereignty has faded away after more than 70 years of independence amid rapid technological advancement in aviation recently.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a regulatory provision regarding which institution is  responsible  for managing that t country’s airspace. This is stated very clearly in US Code 49, Section 40103 on Sovereignty and Use of Airspace. It stipulates that the FAA ought to  have a  plan and policy t regarding the use of airspace navi- f gation and establish regulations or mandates in the use of air space. to ensure the safety of aircraft and efficient use of air space. After the f 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, the

US saw the need to have more institutions responsible for safeguarding airspace that terrorists could easily i penetrate. Thus, it established the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. In addition, they also revamped their flight safety mechanisms by restructuring their civil and military aviation traffic management, which resulted in the hybrid Civil Military Air Traffic Flow Management System.

Australia also has its own airspace law – the Airspace Act 2007 (No. 38, 2007) which stipulates the regulation and administration related to Australian airspace. The purpose of the law is to ensure the safety, efficient use, fair and equitable access of airspace, and for national security reasons. Post-9/11, Australia also established its own Civil Military Air Traffic Flow Management System in anticipation of terrorist plots, using commercial civil aviation facilities. As for Indonesia, after the dissolution of Depanri, it has yet to have a law specifically designed to comprehensively deal with its airspace management.

Indonesia’s national aviation authority – the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DJPU) – is structurally still under the Transportation Ministry. The country still doesn’t have an independent aviation authority.  There  is  a  pressing  need for a law to regulate the management of national airspace for the welfare of the general public and at the same time bolster state defense  and  security.  The  law  can also complement and improve on several prevailing laws such as Law No. 1/2009 on aviation. Let’s hope it will take off.