IO – Managing the territorial land and water of a sovereign nation for the interests of its people’s prosperity and national defense is no longer difficult. Territorial land and water management for transport and national defense has been achieved for hundreds if not thousands or year
Knowledge has continually advanced and experts in the fields of territorial land and water management and research & development in the field are already common. This cannot be said about the management of airspace. Air transport only began to experience significant development in 1903 when the Wright brothers flew their first airplane.
The utilization of airspace as a natural resource is in its early stages compared to technical know-how in the field of territorial land and water management. This is why experts in the airspace management field are still rare while, on the other hand, the speed of technological advancement in an effort to utilize airspace has been rapid.
Imagine, the first airplane flown by the Wright brothers in 1903 could only fly a few meters and in 1969, only 66 years later, airplanes already had the capability to fly three times the speed of sound. Not only that, in the same year, Neil Armstrong had already landed on the moon, 374,000 kilometers from earth. As a result, only smart nations could utilize their airspace properly.
A simple example of this is Singapore’s Flight Information Region (FIR), an area which consists of a large part of Indonesia’s airspace in the Malaka strait. Authority over this airspace has been in control of a foreign nation since 1946. At first, this may seem normal because Indonesia also has authority over some of Australia and Timor Leste’s airspace. However, Australia’s airspace in Christmas Island and Timor Leste’s airspace are under Indonesia’s authority as a result of those nation’s own desires or inabilities to control them on their own.
Australia and Timor Leste receive a large benefit by surrendering authority over this airspace to Indonesia. The same cannot be said for the airspace over the Malaka strait. These are in fact very different cases.
Indonesia would benefit largely in terms of national prosperity and defense if it managed the airspace above the Malaka strait. Why has Indonesia not moved quickly to take control over airspace management in this area?
A number of reasons that always come up are that we are waiting for the right time, as Indonesia does not feel ready in terms of funding and quality of its human resources.
This is an argument that truly reflects Indonesia’s low self-esteem or inferiority complex. A few years ago, Indonesia was rated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as a nation which had succeeded in building and maintaining above-average flight safety.
Besides that, Indonesia AirNav, the single manager of Air Traffic Control in the nation has repeatedly stated the competence of Indonesia AirNav in managing Indonesia’s airspace in general and including the airspace over the Malaka strait. As a result, it is difficult to find a reason to sit back and give control of Indonesia’s airspace to a relatively small nation.
Indonesia as a large nation should endeavor to help neighboring nations, especially small nations such as Singapore which have many limitations specifically when concerning airspace.
The relation of this issue and that of air sovereignty is purposefully not discussed here as a discussion pertaining to that would require a vast amount of aerial knowledge. Talking about that in the midst of those with little knowledge surrounding this topic, who only see the problem as limited to flight slots, would result in the discussion of air sovereignty to be a waste and lead to debates going nowhere. This problem is much more than just a bilateral problem such as the problem between Cambodia and Thailand, as Cambodia is in an ongoing war, which has caused authority over its airspace has been surrendered by the ICAO to Thailand.
After the war is over and they rebuild, Cambodia can retake authority over their airspace through a bilateral agreement with Thailand.
Indonesia’s problem, however, concerns Singapore. Thank God, the President of the Republic of Indonesia has issued instructions to quickly resolve this problem. The question is, why hasn’t there been any visible progress in pursuing a solution? Hopefully, it is not because Indonesia, which is has a Malay majority, as Mahathir Mohammad stated, has the same competency as any other race, but is trapped in “laziness” which among others things like to go “If they can tell others to do something why must they do it themselves?”.
Our airspace is a natural resource which as the Constitution mandates must be controlled by the nation and used as much as possible for the prosperity of the nation’s people. This is a test of the nation’s moral credibility, where the pride and dignity of a large nation are at stake.