Garuda will conduct its latest survey at the Notohadinegoro Airport by the end of January this year, as there are many shortcomings that need be addressed."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Jember district, located in the eastern part of East Java, is in desperate need of better air transport facilities in order to boost tourism in the region.

The northern and eastern parts of Jember have spectacular mountain ranges. The region boasts three breathtaking waterfalls such as the Manggisan, Tancak, and Lereng Raung, as well as scenic beaches in Watu Ulo, Paseban, Bandealit, and Puger.

From Surabaya, it takes more than four hours to reach the city of Jember via a bus, train, or a private car, but can take longer due to traffic snarls.

Regarding the transportation-related problems plaguing Jember, the local district administration expressed hope that the commercial flights to the districts Notohadinegoro Airport will commence shortly.

The commercial flights to the Notohadinegoro Airport will start soon in 2014, as Garuda Indonesia has shown interest in operating the Jember-Surabaya route.

Jember Transportation Department spokesperson Cholifah remarked that after being abandoned for a couple of years, the Notohadinegoro Airport will soon commence operations of commercial flights between Jember and Surabaya.

"The construction of support facilities and infrastructure will be expedited and completed by mid-2014, as the national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, has committed to opening its regular flight operations between Surabaya and Jember," Cholifah noted in Jember on Monday.

According to her, Garudas ATR 72-600 airplane will have its maiden flight to the Notohadinegoro Airport in April 2014 from the Juanda Airport in Surabaya.

Since its opening in 2008, only the PT Aero Express International (PT AEI) airline had used the airport, but due to the lack of passengers, the operations lasted only three months.

Over the last few years, the airport has been used as a sports arena for activities such as paragliding, pigeon racing, and motorcycle racing.

Cholifah added that she has coordinated with the Ministry of Transportation to immediately evaluate the existing infrastructure, which may need modernization.

"We hope the Ministry of Transportation will positively support the endeavor to make the Notohadinegoro Airport operational, so that the local communitys dream of the Jember-Surabaya flight service is realized," she pointed out.

She further added that the Jember Transportation Department has allocated around Rp18 billion from the 2014 regional budget towards the procurement of aviation equipment such as X-ray scanner, navigation, and air traffic controller, including the maintenance and extension of the Notohadinegoro Airports runway.

She reported that effective April 2014, PT Garuda Indonesia will operate the ATR 72-600 aircraft, which will have a single class economy cabin configuration and a seating capacity of 70 passengers to serve short-haul and remote routes of Banyuwangi-Surabaya and Jember Surabaya.

"Garuda will conduct its latest survey at the Notohadinegoro Airport by the end of January this year, as there are many shortcomings that need be addressed," she stated.

The East Java administration is planning to establish a network of intercity airports in order to boost transportation between the cities in the province.

The municipalities and districts in the province have been urged to sign joint ventures with private companies to construct airports to serve the city-link program.

Being part of the economic development strategy based in the East Java spatial planning, the airport in Jember is expected to be integrated into the short air transport system between cities with other existing airports in East Java.

Meanwhile, Jember branch of Young Indonesian Businessmen Association Chairman Rendra Wirawan remarked that the operations of the Notohadinegoro Airport will contribute to the economic development in the district.

"Several investors have complained about the long road trip, which takes about five hours, between Surabaya and Jember, but the operations of the airport will shorten the travel time," Rendra claimed.

He expressed optimism that the operations of the new airport in Jember will lure more investors to invest in the district. The airport will also help in attracting tourists who can enjoy the districts abundant archeological sites.

Jember has many archeological sites including the Klanceng and Duplang sites in the Arjasa subdistrict, Suko site in the Jelbuk subdistrict, Srono and Mojo in the Sukowono subdistrict, and Deres temple in the Gumukmas subdistrict.

But Mojokertos Trowulan Ancient Heritage Conservation Service (BP3) official Joko Sujiharto stated that the historical sites in Jember are of high value and were prone to theft.

According to him, some of the archaeological artifacts found in the Jember district have been smuggled and sold in foreign countries such as Japan, Australia, the United States, and the Netherlands.

"Some of the historical artifacts have been allegedly stolen and sold to antique collectors in foreign countries such as Japan, Australia, the United States, and the Netherlands," Joko Sujiharto claimed.

Joko added that the Jember district has around 400 archeological artifacts of various kinds, among others statues, kenong stones (type of a Javanese musical instrument made of bronze resembling a gong), large upright standing stones (menhir), sarcophagus, dolmen, and several weapons belonging to the Majapahit kingdom.

He was hopeful that the local authorities will improve surveillance of the remaining archaeological artifacts and convince the local community about the importance of protecting the antiques.

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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