Ingo Noka

Breakfast in Batam – How to fly to Batam, Indonesia

In Flight Log, Navigation, Social Life on September 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Rolling on runway 4 – Batam, Hang Hadim Airport

The Indonesian island of Batam is barely 10 nautical miles away from Singapore, but practically nobody ever flies there.  I think there are three reasons for that.  Firstly, the city of Singapore and the busy airspace of Changi Airport create a barrier between Seletar or Senai and Nadim Airport on Batam.  Secondly, it is somewhat inconvenient to get a flight permit from the Indonesian DCA and thirdly, parking, landing and ground handling fees at Nadim Airport are rumored to be excessive.

My mission this weekend was to find out what it is really like to fly to Batam from Seletar Airport. (I had help from KC Lim, who occasionally flies with me while he is waiting for the DCA Malaysia to issue his SPL so that he can start his training.) (Please click here for more pictures)

I started by asking WoA in Singapore to request the flight permit for a VFR flight to Batam.  The request went out on the 12 or 13 September, which means the DCA didn’t look at this before Monday the 16th. I received the permit on Friday evening at 2130 local time.  So I would say it is safe to assume that you need to request a permit no later than five working days before the day of your flight.  The permit itself is quite impressively decorated with five huge stamps, which are probably applied at a rate of one per day.

The next step was to figure out which route to take.  I couldn’t find anything on the Internet, but it seemed to me that I needed to find a route that takes me as far away from the Changi control zone.  This means I would either go around Singapore anti-clockwise or I could go north first via Kota Tinggi, Sedilli Besar and then back south along the coast visa Desaru and Pengerrang.  In any case, I thought I would need to fly low underneath the approach path of Changi.  Siva suggested I call AIS in Singapore, which I finally did on Friday afternoon.  To my surprise, AIS told me I should fly direct to Kong Kong and then to WIDD at 4000 feet.  I asked twice whether that was ok for VFR as well and was told twice that it is.

Planned route from Seletar to Batam

I had a few misgivings about this.  My concern was that Changi would treat me as if I was an IFR flight and I would have to cope with the occasional CB cloud that always seem to put themselves right into my flight path.  Of course, I could always ask for a different heading or altitude, but how many time will they let VFR traffic fly over Changi Airport, if Singapore approach has to spend more time on a Piper than on an Airbus 380, or even worse, what would happen if one of the commercial flights has to be rerouted to make way for me?

Following controller instructions and stay out of clouds!

Anyway, crossing the Changi active was too much of an adventure to pass on, so I filed a very simple flight plan, which was accepted.

-E/0200 P/1 R/V S/ J/ A/WHITE AND DARK GREEN C/NOKA I +65 81275812)

The weather on Saturday morning wasn’t much of a surprise.  Few clouds at 1500 and 2000 feet and some towering CBs over Changi.  The sky towards the East and North-East looked clearer than to the West. I decided to give it a try.  My backup plan was to ask for return to Seletar if I could not get enough separation from clouds on my way to Kong Kong NDB, regardless how tempting the sky further East would look.

Descending 3000 feet – What is the base of those clouds?

After take off, I was thrown straight into an IFR environment, which is completely different from the VFR navigation I have done so far – but I absolutely love it.  The controllers identify you on the radar and from then on tell you exactly what to do, which heading to fly, which way to turn, which altitude to climb or descend to.  From a navigations point of view, IFR seems much easier than VFR.  You basically do not even have to know where exactly you are, as long as you know your heading and altitude. (No worries, I understand enough of this to know that it isn’t that easy.)

Of course, the controller has no idea whether there is a cloud right in front of you or not.  So I did what I could to stay out of trouble and that is all I am going to say on that topic.

The sequence of airspaces and ATC stations from Seletar to Batam is as follows:

  • Seletar Tower (118.45) tells you to climb to 3000 feet and keep turns within their CTZ
  • Paya Lebar Approach (127.7) is next over the Johor Straights and gives you a new heading and altitude
  • They will hand you over to Singapore Approach (120.3) , which will give you more headings. (I didn’t actually make it to KK.  First, they routed me almost straight North until I reached 4000 feet and than put me on a heading that intercepted the straight line between KK and BTM (note that the ATC clearance is using the VOR station BTM at Batam not the airport identifier)
  • After crossing the active at Changi, roughly half way between Changi and Batam, you are handed over to Tanjung Pinang Approach (130.2).  (These guys were clearly didn’t expect somebody to call them.)
  • Just off the coast, as soon as you tell them that you can see the airfield, Tanjung Pinang will hand you over to Nadim Tower (118.7) .
  • The standard runway seems to be 04, which means you will join left downwind almost straight in coming from Changi.
  • The rest is standard procedure, maybe with the little quirk that I got my landing clearance while I was still on downwind.  Apparently they couldn’t wait to get me on the ground and out of the way.  The controllers at Nadim are easy to understand.

Nadim Airport, Runway 04 Left Downwind

Landing Nadim Airport Runway 04

The ground handler was there shortly after we landed (I still don’t know the name of the company.)  They brought a tow truck and chocks, both of which were to big for my Piper.

Ground handling at Batam airport

The bus took us to the terminal building and we were ushered through security and immigration without a hitch.

Bus to the terminal

As it is custom in this part of the world, we surrendered our passport and while we had breakfast in the terminal building somebody put a chip into our  passports.  Finally, the ground handler organized a taxi to town, which took us to the “The Hill” hotel in 20 minutes for a meter-fare of 90,000 Indonesian Rupees (about 10 SGD). The only problem I encountered was the non-existent English of the ground handler crew.  Thankfully, KC Lim, my co-pilot is Malaysian and could assist.


  1. Hi, can I ask – roughly how much did landing, handling etc cost you?

    • In Batam itself, I paid USD 22 landing fee and 1.5M Rupees (approx. USD110) for ground handling. I paid SGD 100 to Wings over Asia to coordinate the flight permit. The landing fee in Seletar was SGD 25 and SGD 8 for each passenger. The prices may have changed.

      • Thanks! That landing fee seems fine but slightly painful handling… I need to get mentally prepared for the cost of flying in Singapore!

  2. Both, Paya Lebar and Singapore Approach treat you like any other IFR traffic (almost). You get vectors and altitudes and you are expected to execute heading and altitude changes immediately. You also need to be on the ball with your radio practice. There is literally no time for “say again …”.

  3. From your experience when flying in Malaysia in controlled airspace (under approach or director ATC), do they provide vectors for VFR traffic?

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