SINGAPORE - The new GPS-based instrument approach procedures for Seletar Airport could be rolled out within six to 12 months, said Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke.
Mr Loke was speaking at a joint press conference on Sunday morning (April 21) with Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, after a welcome ceremony to mark Malaysian carrier Firefly's inaugural landing at Seletar Airport.
Mr Khaw said regulators from both countries will be meeting next week to discuss the new Global Positioning System (GPS) approach procedures, which will replace Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures at Seletar Airport which Singapore has withdrawn.
"The Singapore side has worked out some possibilities... and I am quite confident that it can be done pretty soon," he told reporters.
Firefly flight FY3126, which had departed from Subang Airport at the edge of Kuala Lumpur, was greeted with a water cannon salute as the plane landed at Seletar at around 10.50am. Mr Loke and 70 other passengers were on board.
Firefly suspended all services to Singapore in December last year after it failed to obtain approval from its regulator to move from Changi Airport to Seletar Airport, which the airline had earlier agreed to do. It is the only airline that currently operates turboprop flights to Singapore.
Malaysia's civil aviation authority had protested against plans by Singapore to introduce ILS procedures at Seletar Airport, claiming that this would affect developments at the nearby town of Pasir Gudang. Malaysia later announced a restricted area over Pasir Gudang.
On Sunday, Firefly announced that it will start operating two flights daily between Subang and Singapore from this week. This number will increase to six flights a day in the coming weeks.
At the press conference, Mr Khaw said that Singapore welcomes its new service between Seletar and Subang airports.
He added that Seletar Airport would be advantageous for Firefly, as it would not have to deal with the possible congestion and compete with larger aircraft at Changi.
Thanking Mr Loke for joining the flight, Mr Khaw said that his counterpart's presence "signals the strong bilateral relations between our two countries and ministries". He also said he will reciprocate this gesture in due course.
Singapore also hopes to settle, finalise and sign a new supplemental agreement to suspend the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS) project soon, Mr Khaw added.
Mr Loke said that while the Malaysian government is currently looking at "various options" on how the cost can be reduced, Malaysia is still committed to ensuring that the project can continue at this point in time.
The GPS procedures at Seletar, which will be jointly developed by the civil aviation authorities of both Singapore and Malaysia, is similar to the ILS, which allows planes to land using an instrument so that pilots do not need to rely only on their vision for landing.
This means planes can land even in bad weather, when visibility is low.
However, GPS signals are received from a satellite, while the ILS receives signals from a ground-based station.
To use the GPS procedure, aircraft operators would typically require some time to outfit the aircraft with the necessary equipment, while the vast majority of commercial aircraft are already equipped to use the ILS technology, experts had said.
On Jan 8, both countries agreed to simultaneously suspend for one month the ILS and the restricted area at Pasir Gudang. This was later extended until the end of last month.
Both countries agreed earlier this month that Singapore will withdraw the ILS procedures for Seletar Airport, and Malaysia will indefinitely suspend its permanent restricted area over Pasir Gudang.