An official of AirNav Indonesia speaks with community members in Pekalongan, Central Java, about the 2019 Java Traditional Balloon Festival, which the state-owned air traffic management agency will host in the area on June 12. (Antara Photo/Harviyan Perdana Putra)

AirNav Warns Pilots of Idul Fitri Balloons, Diverts Air Traffic on Jakarta-Surabaya Route


JUNE 09, 2019

Jakarta. AirNav Indonesia, the state-owned air traffic management agency, has warned pilots to be cautious of unmanned hot-air balloons launched to celebrate Idul Fitri, the Ministry of Transportation said in a statement on Saturday.

The ministry issued a regulation last year imposing restrictions on the size of the balloons, the areas from where they may be launched and the heights at which they may be flown.

However, AirNav has received 28 reports since the start of the Idul Fitri holiday of balloons anchored to the ground flying at altitudes above the regulated maximum of 150 meters, or lower near airports.

The tradition of launching balloons during festivities is common among the people of Central Java and East Java.

AirNav has diverted air traffic between Jakarta and Surabaya, East Java, further north over the Java Sea to avoid the balloons. The decision is supported by the transportation ministry's Directorate General of Aviation.

"According to reports from pilots since the first day of Lebaran [Idul Fitri] until now, [the number of balloons] continues to decline. But for the sake of safety, we have diverted the route," AirNav Indonesia Director General Novie Riyanto Rahardjo said, as quoted in the statement.

"Actually, it is harming both airlines and passengers because they have to travel further and spend more on jet fuel," he added.

To minimize the uncontrolled launching of unmanned hot-air balloons, AirNav is hosting the 2019 Java Traditional Balloon Festival on June 12, when balloons can be anchored in Ponorogo, East Java, and Pekalongan, Central Java. This will be extended to Wonosobo, Central Java, on June 15, the official said.

AirNav said it supports the aviation directorate general's efforts to cooperate with police and the military to enforce the law and to restrict the release of balloons.

"We have coordinated with the police and this year, we have agreed that any operator of an illegal balloon will be charged as a criminal if caught," Aviation Director General Polana Pramesti said, as quoted in the statement.

She said members of the police and military are working undercover to enforce the ministerial regulation on unmanned hot-air balloons and that anyone who disregards it could face a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

Polana said the authorities do not intend to stamp out the tradition, but merely to adjust the situation for the sake of safety.

She added that the flight diversions on the Jakarta-Surabaya route are temporary, until the airspace has been cleared.

The Indonesian Pilots Association (IPI) said hot-air balloons can damage crucial flight-control systems on aircraft, such as elevators, rudders and ailerons, and that they can also cause fires and explosions if sucked into jet engines.