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BusinessIndonesia releases Ethiopian freighter aircraft

Indonesia releases Ethiopian freighter aircraft

Indonesian authorities released Ethiopian Airlines B777-200 freighter aircraft that they intercepted on January 14 when it entered Indonesian airspace without an over flight permission.

Senior official of Ethiopian Airlines told The Reporter that the Indonesian authorities released the cargo plane on Wednesday. However, due to some formalities that needed to be fulfilled the aircraft departed from Batam Airport, Indonesia to Singapore on Thursday and landed in Singapore at 11:15 AM local time.

Ethiopian Airlines has been working with Indonesian authorities to clear up the miscommunication over traffic rights that led to the interception by the Indonesian air force of the Boeing 777-200F jetliner. The freighter entered Indonesian airspace as part of a flight from its hub at Addis Ababa to Singapore to take an Ethiopian Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine to an engine shop in Singapore for maintenance. Ethiopia’s national carrier has more than 20 Boeing 787-8s and -9s in its fleet, of which four are powered with the Trent 1000 engines that require an upgrade of the intermediate pressure turbine blades that have exhibited durability issues. The European Aviation Safety Agency and the US FAA recently certified a redesigned intermediate pressure compressor blade for the Trent 1000 Package C engine.

Indonesian F-16 fighter jets intercepted the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777F, with registration ET-AVN, after it entered Indonesian airspace without an overflight permit. They forced the aircraft to land at Hang Nadim International Airport on Batam, an island south of Singapore.

Cargo flight ETH 3728 had been scheduled to fly from the Ethiopian main hub Addis Ababa to Hong Kong, according to officials of Ethiopian Airlines.

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In a statement, Ethiopian Airlines noted the freighter was operating on a non-scheduled cargo flight from Addis Ababa to Singapore “and was crossing the Indonesian airspace in accordance with the ICAO Chicago Convention Article 5, by which a non-scheduled flight can overfly the air space of a friendly country without prior permission.” It did recognize that authorities may require the aircraft to make a landing.


An Ethiopian Airlines senior executive, who asked not to be named, told The Reporter that the aircraft was scheduled to fly empty to Hong Kong International Airport to pick up cargo and at the last minute was assigned to drop the engine off in Singapore for urgent maintenance. “It was not carrying cargo except the aircraft engine. We had landing permission from Singaporean Civil Aviation authority but did not have an over-flight pass from the Indonesian authorities because we thought that Indonesia is a friendly country,” the executive said. Obtaining the overflight permission code for an ad hoc cargo flight ahead of entering the airspace of a friendly country is typically a routine practice, he added.

Ethiopian Airlines is familiar with Asian countries as it has been flying to several countries in the region including India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and Japan. It is also under preparation to launch flights to Jakarta, Indonesia and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. “We have very good relations with Asian countries,” the executive said.     

“It is the political row between Indonesia and Singapore that has complicated the matter. The fact that the aircraft was flying to their political rival Singapore has enraged Indonesian authorities,” he added.

According to the senior official of Ethiopian Airlines, the issue has been resolved amicably, allowing the freighter to continue its flight. “The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), Ethiopian ambassador to Indonesia and director general of Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority Wossenyeleh Hunegnaw (Col.) have all been very helpful in the process,” he added.         

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