Ingo Noka

Langkawi – All you need to know

In Flight Bag, Navigation on July 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Langkawi VFR Map

When I came back from my “Round Malaysia” trip, I promised that I would post what I had learned about the reporting points for a Langkawi island tour.

This got a bit delayed, but now I have finished a map of Langkawi, which I think contains everything a pilot needs to know for a flight to and around Langkawi.

Let’s start with the approach to Langkawi. I assume you would come from Penang tracking along the coast over the water. After you have left behind Kedah Peak (about 1000 feet high), you will be handed over from Butterworth Approach to Alor Star. Alor Star is mostly concerned about you crossing their approach path somewhere around Kuala Kedah. This means you may be required to hold at Simpang Empat or thereabout. In any case you will have to report at Kuala Kedah and watch your altitude. Here you may hear other aircraft talking about coasting in or coasting out, which means they approach or leave Alor Star Airport from or towards the sea.

At Kuala Kedah you have a choice to either go further north to Kuala Perlis or to turn West to Pulau Paya. My rule of thumb is that if I can see Langkawi clearly from Kuala Kedah, I take the shorter route via Pulau Paya. Kuala Perlis is a border town to Thailand. You need to be careful not to go too far north, since the border to Thailand is not more than two nautical miles from the town center. If you miss it by about two minutes, you will be in Thai airspace.

Now is the time to get your camera ready. Assuming you have started your flight in Johor, you will arrive around 5 to 6 pm, which is the time the sun goes down just behind Langkawi. I have witnessed some of the most spectacular views approaching Langkawi from the East.

Langkawi Sunset

Next is the hand over from Alor Star to Langkawi tower. Langkawi will likely ask for a report at Kuah. So far I always had to hold at Kuah, which means you will be orbiting over the water abeam Kuah. If the weather is nice, this is actually quite a pleasant way to spend flying in circles. There are two reporting points just before Kuah. One is Pulau Timun, the end point of VFR lane 7 and the other is abeam Pulau Tuba, the end point of VFR lane 6.

The usual altitude over Kuah will be 1500 feet, which means you won’t be able to see the airport, which is hidden behind a few hills to the West. Once you are cleared for East of the Airfield, you have to cross those hills. Look out for the big exhibition hall next to the tower if you have trouble spotting the airfield.

Because of a couple of hills in the approach path of runway 21, it is more than likely that you get cleared to land on runway 3. The standard circuit for runway 3 is left. On one occasion I had to cross the runway to get to the West of the airfield before I was allowed to descend to circuit height.

Be prepared for a swift, no-nonsense landing pattern. You will fly out into the sea, but you are expected to keep everything tight. The base leg will be almost non-existent, that is you are descending from downwind into final in one big turn with only a perfunctory base.

Look out for the threshold which is further into the runway than what you would normally expect. Once you have hopefully gotten your aircraft in the ground gracefully, you will have to taxi almost to the end of the runway to exit to the left (first exit is Charlie, then Bravo and Alpha). Your taxi stand will be to the left of the terminal building. The stand number (9, 10 or 11) is on a sign and you are suppose to park with the nose pointing toward the runway.

The ground frequency in Langkawi is somewhat of a mystery. Some swear that there is no ground frequency, but the AIP lists one and I have seen them using it. However, sometimes it really seems as if there is no hand-over between tower and ground (both for start-up and after landing).

Now we come to the pleasant part, the island tour. Langkawi is lovely from the air and it is absolutely worth your time and money to fly around the island while you are there. As far as I can tell there is no need to file a flight plan. You simply ask for a start-up for an anti-clockwise round the island flight.

After take-off you maybe tempted to go a bit further to explore the island just to the left of the approach path, instead of turning left straight away, but the tower does not like this, because you keep close to their approach path and circuit pattern for too long. So forget about the nice islands in front of you and turn left toward Kuah.

Estimating your arrival time won’t be as accurate as what you might usually see on your cross-country flights. I always give it a few more minutes than what it would ordinarily take, so that I can explore the North of the island a bit without being in a hurry to get to the next reporting point.

As a rough guide, I suggest you use 4 minutes to Kuah, 10 minutes to Tanjong Rhu, 5 minutes to the Cement Factory and 5 minutes to Pulau Datai. Teluk Burau would be another 5 minutes or so. While you are at the Northern side of Langkawi, the tower cannot reach you. Nevertheless report where you are and at Kuah, give them an estimate when you think you are going to reappear at the West of the airfield. From Kuah I would say 25 to 30 minutes. If you have minutes to spare, just use them to explore the secluded beaches and little islands a bit longer.

In the extremely unlikely event that you have no idea where you are, see whether you can find the Cement factory. The factory is to the North of the island, directly at the beach front with a long jetty. It is hideously ugly and cannot be missed. Pulau Datai is abeam a lonely golf course just off a small bay.

Do not venture out too far to the North. There is an island (Ko Tarutao)that appears as big as Langkawi (it isn’t). That island is already on the Thai side and the border is halfway between Langkawi and that island. I have heard of pilots who confused the Thai island with Langkwai and soon after found themselves in an interesting conversation with Langkawi tower.

You finish your island tour by going around the mountains. Look out for a small island just off the coast. That island is in the approach path of runway 21. When you rejoin the circuit you can use that island as a rough guide where you want to turn from base to final.

Safe flying and have fun in Langkawi. (And please do us all a favor and do not fly too close to the resorts along the coast. Rich tourists usually think that the world belongs to them and aircraft noise is only good if they sit in the aircraft themselves.)

  1. Hi, great information. If you would like to add a graphical representation of the Langkawi aerodrome, I would be glad to pass it to you. Similarly, I also have related instrument approach charts, though not used for VFR flights but the various Instrument approach reporting points may be good for awareness & help in looking out for the aircrafts that are on instrument approach to land.
    Looking forward to more of your flying blogs.

    • Julian

      Thanks for your comment. I am very interested in additional information I can add to this blog entry. I already have the Malaysian AIP documents for Langkawi, but I do not want to make copyrighted material available for download from my sites.


  2. Ingo, thx for the very detailed Flt into Langkawi. The info is certainly vital to all.

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