WSSL/Seletar used to be a surefire winner for Singapore-bound GA/BA operators who were squeezed-out from the heavily congested WSSS/Singapore Changi airport.
But these days, it’s getting increasingly harder to operate here. Night curfews, restricted daytime hours, tricky visual approaches, and an increase in commercial traffic has resulted in many operators choosing to avoid Seletar altogether – electing to go up the road to WMKJ/Johor Bahru on the Malaysian side instead.
Along with the night curfew, which runs from 22-07 local time each night, there are now various different times during the day when GA/BA are not allowed to operate: 0930-1030, 12-13, 15-16, 17-18 local time.
A badly-worded AIC outlines these restrictions. From that document, it’s not immediately obvious what’s going on, but here’s what’s really happening: the airport is now slowly enforcing a rule of no arrivals or departures during these daytime periods, to allow for training flights of the local flying club!
Reports from OPSGROUP members suggest there is some flexibility on these times – it depends on which ATC officer you get on the day, and if the flying club have any flights planned:
“The daytime closures caught us by surprise. We were not familiar with the AIC promulgating such, and neither was ASA, our handler, and they are pretty plugged in there in Singapore. That being said, we’d been “approved” (no slots at WSSL) several weeks ago for a 1730 LCL departure, then told the night before the A/D would be closed for training from 1700 – 1800 LCL. So, we pushed our departure to 1800. Our passengers arrived early (1630), and the handler told us that if we could be off before 1700, we could plan on leaving early. The last passenger didn’t get to the airplane until about 1650, but the handler said we were still good to go. Left the blocks at 1701, waited a bit at runway’s end for some training aircraft (2 Diamonds in the pattern!) to do touch and goes, and departed at 1711. So, if your pax are okay showing up early, with the possibility of having to wait until the pattern ‘opens up’, seems a good tactic.”
Long-term though, it seems the authorities are intent on applying the new restricted daytime hours; and local handling agents are all saying the same thing – it’s now only a matter of time before slots are introduced at Seletar!
A dead ILS = visual approaches only
Just getting in there at all can be a pain – the airport is surrounded with prohibited and restricted airspace, noise sensitive areas, training areas, military airports; as well as a bunch of buildings, cranes, boats, and other obstacles to to the north of the airport on the Malaysian side – just across the Strait of Johor.
And since Malaysia effectively killed the plans for ILS at Seletar back at the start of 2019, there is no available instrument approach on either Runway 03 or 21, requiring visual approaches to be flown onto both runways.
Seletar already has two standard joining procedures from the north, but from 18 July 2019 they’re adding a new joining procedure from the south, over the SJ NDB, along with new departure procedures to the south, over PONJO – SJ.
There are three new intersections that go along with the new procedures. Even though the new arrival (still a VFR procedure!) involves one fix, there are four new options involved. Straight-in and circling for each runway, 3 and 21. Each involves slightly different altitudes at different points in the procedure as well, so careful perusal is important! All the details, along with the new charts, can be found in AIP SUP 62/2019.
The new FBO
Seletar opened its new $80 million terminal back in Nov 2018. The idea was to free up capacity at WSSS/Singapore by moving all scheduled turboprop flights to WSSL/Seletar – although as it turns out, only Malaysia’s Firefly airline has switched over to Seletar for their daily 20-or-so flights to and from Kuala Lumpur.
Firefly and other commercial flights all use the terminal next door (also a new building), whereas all GA/BA use the new FBO. All CIQ and security screening is done in this building, and it’s very similar to a US-style FBO, with a lounge for passengers and a separate lounge area for crew.
However, whilst the new FBO is certainly more pleasing on the eye than the old one, the big difference and major drawback is that it only allows for one lane of pax movement – either arrivals or departures, but not both simultaneously.
However, reports from OPSGROUP members all say that if you do manage to plan it so as to avoid any other flights using the FBO at the same time, the process can be pretty good:
“CIQ and security checks are a 5-10 minute process at most, and you are through. Depending on where you are parked, you then have a 5-15 minute van ride to planeside. Inbound, it is a comfortable environment to wait, or to go straight through to the cars. Cold fridge if you need a beverage, adult or otherwise, for the ride to the hotel.”
Technically, GA/BA operators are still allowed to go to WSSS/Changi, but will normally only be allowed quick turnarounds between 10-18L, subject to runway/bay availability, and then you’ll have to go elsewhere for parking.
Another option is WMKJ/Johor Bahru, on the Malaysian side, around 25nm north of Singapore. It’s open from 06-00L (22-06z) with extensions possible with prior notice, has a separate FBO with its own VIP lounge and hangars with maintenance support, and has no slots or parking restrictions for GA/BA ops. Check out the brochure!
The only downside is that it can sometimes take a bit of time for immigration when you cross the road border heading south into Singapore – sometimes 2-3 hours during busy travel periods.
Permits and stuff
If you’re operating as a private flight to either Changi or Seletar, things don’t get too complicated, as permits are not required for private flights! Just make sure you have parking arranged, and file your inbound ATC flight plan 12 hours in advance, being sure to copy in the Singapore ATC AFTN address WSJCZQZX.
If you’re doing a charter flight on the other hand, you’re going to need a landing permit, which means you’re going to have to jump through a few hoops.
For this, you’ll need to get an Operations Permit from Singapore CAA, which is basically a blanket approval to conduct revenue flights to Singapore, valid for up to one year. You’ll then need to get an Air Transport Permit, which is required for every individual charter schedule into Singapore (Changi or Seletar). Save yourself some hassle and get a local handler to help arrange these for you.
If you’re unfazed by these challenges and still plan on flying to Seletar, check out this handy airport briefing, lovingly prepared by an OPSGROUP member, which should tell you everything your heart desires.
If you’ve still got questions, or if you’ve been to Seletar recently and can tell us how it went, please let us know!