news focus: SIM airport worthy to serve wide-body aircraft

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Sultan Iskandar Muda (SIM) international airport in Aceh Province is worthy to serve wide-body aircraft such as Boeing 737-400 jetliners.

Therefore, Aceh provincial government expresses hope that the airport at Blang Bintang village in Aceh Besar district will one day become a transit aerodrome for international aircraft in the future.

"We hope SIM will one day become a transit airport, especially for wide-body airplanes from the Middle East countries for refueling before continuing their flights to the city or the country of destination," Aceh provincial government spokesman T Setia Budi said in Banda Aceh on Sunday.

He made the statement in the sidelines of the inaugural celebration to mark the first landing of Boeing 747-400 at Sultan Iskandar Muda airport on Sunday morning.

Setia Budi explained that the airport, which was heavily damaged by a devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004 but was then renovated after that, has 3,000-meter runway for wide-body jet liners.

"It means the airport has adequate facility and infrastructure to be a transit aerodrome for airplanes from other countries, especially from the Middle East, before continuing their flights to the city or country of destination," Setia Budi said.

Hundreds of people from every corner of Banda Aceh, Aceh Province flocked to Sulatan Iskandar Muda (SIM) airport at Blang Bintang village to witness the fist landing of Boeing 747-400 on Suday.

According to Wikipedia, the Boeing 747-400 is a major development and the best-selling model of the Boeing 747 family of jet airliners.

While retaining the four-engine wide-body layout of its predecessors, the 747-400 embodies numerous technological and structural changes to produce a more efficient airframe.

Its most distinguishing features versus preceding 747 models are 6 feet (1.8 m) winglets mounted on 6 feet (1.8 m) wing tip extensions, which are found on all 747-400s except for Japanese domestic market versions.

The 747-400 is equipped with a two-crew glass cockpit, which dispenses with the need for a flight engineer, along with more fuel-efficient engines, a horizontal stabilizer fuel tank, and revised fuselage/wing fairings.

The aircraft also features an all-new interior with upgraded in-flight entertainment architecture.

The 747-400 has a maximum capacity of 624 passengers, and can fly non-stop for up to 7,670 nautical miles (14,200 km), depending on model.

Aceh Provincial Legislative Assembly deputy chairman Sulaiman Abda said the presence of Boeing 747-400 in Ace was a special pride and appreciation for the local people.

"The presence of Boeing 747-400 jetliner at Sultan Iskandar Muda proves that the airport is is worthy of being a transit aerodrome for airplanes from other countries," Sulaiman said.

Syahrul, a resident of Banda Aceh, said he intentionally came with his whole family members to the airport just to see the wide-body Boeing 747-400 jetliner made its maiden landing on Sultan Iskandar Muda airport, located some 15 km from city center.

Now serving several national airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, Lion, Adam Air, Sriwijaya, Mandala and now Air Asia for direct flight to Kuala Lumpur, Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport is the only airport in Aceh which has been renovated after it was heavily damaged by a devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004.

"It is a historic moment for the people of Aceh, and for the Sultan Iskandar Muda airport to be first landed by the Boeing 747-400 jetliner," Syahrul said.

He noted that following the successful landing and taking off of the Boeing 747-400, it proved that the airport, which was renovated by Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Board (BRR), could be transit aerodrome for international airline companies.

"We hear that before the Boeing jetliner makes its first landing, transportation officials checked the runway of SIM airport to make sure it is ready to be landed by the wide-body aircraft.

The arrival of Boeing 747-400 aircraft which was contracted by Garuda Indonesia was also customarily greeted by officials at the provincial levels of government, among others provincial legislative assembly deputy chairman Sulaiman Abda, Aceh Besar district head Bukhari Daud, and Banda Aceh deputy mayor Illiza Sa`aduddin Djamal.

Piloted by Captain Yose Carmona and co-pilot Raul Baregon of Spain, the Boeing 747-400 landed at Sultan Iskandar Muda airport at 6.30 local time on Sunday morning and then took of 8.45 with 455 prospective hajj pilgrims from Aceh province to Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile SIM airport management company PT Angkasa Pura-II General Manager Wasfan Widodo said his party was ready to complete various supporting facilities to make it an international transit airport.

"The existing facilities are already adequate but we will continue to improve it to make the airport an international transit aerodrome in the future," Wasfan said.

Wasfan`s statement was then confirmed by Captain Yose Carmona by saying that Sultan Iskandar Muda airport was very suitable for wide-body aircraft such as Boeing 747-400 with the maximum capacity of 624 passengers.

"SIM airport is very good and suitable to be a transit airport for wide-body jetliners from various countries," Yose said, admiring the airport`s capability.