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A Firefly flight aborted its landing at Seletar Airport yesterday, citing low visibility caused by the heavy rains.

Flight FY 3132 was scheduled to arrive at 6.30 pm (Apr 29) from Subang airport but was forced to divert their landing to Senai Airport in Johor, the Straits Times reports.

Pilots landing at Seletar Airport would have to rely on their vision when landing because the airport is unequipped with instrument-based approach procedures.

In response to the bad weather as a cause for this diversion, a spokesman for the Malaysian airline responded, “Safety is very key to us”.

A total of 60 travelers were affected by the diversion. In the aftermath, all on-the-ground land arrangements from Senai Airport ensured that the 25 passengers on the affected flight were safely delivered to their destinations.

The 35 travelers awaiting their return flight to Subang were put on the next Malaysia Airlines flight in Changi. Their transfer arrangements from Seletar to Changi were undertaken by Changi Airport Group and the airline’s ground handling firm, as confirmed by a Firefly spokesperson.

The incident marks the first glitch the airline has experienced since its maiden landing at Seletar Airport a week ago (Apr 21) and resuming its flight route nearly five months after flights to Singapore were suspended.

At the moment, the airline operates six flights a day between Subang and Seletar Airports.

What if, planes could land even in low visibility

Landing diversions hardly ever make headway in the news, because they don’t usually occur. Why did it happen yesterday?

Back in October 2017, Malaysiaโ€™s Firefly then-chief executive officer Ignatius Ong had insisted on the instalment of an Instrument Landing System (ILS) at Seletar Airport, citing it as a major obstacle for Firefly and a requirement it was to be “a proper commercial airport”.

Firefly is the sole airline that operates turboprop flights between Singapore and Malaysia, the second-largest destination for the Malaysian-born airline. Ong’s statements also stressed the importance of an ILS for a landing turboprop aircraftโ€”departing flights do not use ILS.

The ILS facilitates pilots in navigating their landing during the night or in times of poor visibility as per the above scenario. Without an ILS installed, pilots have to rely on eyesight to land the aircraft. Without good visibility in bad weather, landing becomes complicated, if it is even allowed at all.

Seletar Airport did have ILS

Believe it or not, an ILS was indeed completely installed at Seletar Airport in late 2018 with talks of its installation beginning as early as 2014 according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).

However, neighbouring Malaysia argued that the installation of an ILS would involve a flight path over Malaysian airspace.

Late in Dec 2018, the opposition towards the installation of the ILS at Seletar Airport gradually escalated to an airspace dispute between the two countries.

Granted that “no permission was asked”, Malaysia also cited multiple factors to their opposition such as “breach of sovereignty”, national interest and its effect on development and port activity in Pasir Gudang.

Safe to say, the ILS system was then dropped by Seletar Airport but it seems Malaysia’s Firefly airline suffered a significant loss as a result.

Daily flights have been reduced from its initial 20 flights to 6 since losing its landing spots in Changi, not to mention the loss in revenue as a result over the suspension of it’s scheduled relocation that arose from the dispute.

Nevertheless, we’re glad that the pilots took the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their passengers. Because here’s what landing in low visibility under poor weather looks likeโ€” like navigating through hot soup: