An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 freighter, performing a non scheduled flight from Ethiopia to Singapore, was intercepted as it entered the Indonesian airspace without an overflight permit. The aircraft was escorted by Indonesian F-16 fighter jets to Hang Nadim Airport (BTH) on Batam island, Indonesia.
On 14 January 2019, the plane, registered ET-AVN, was initially supposed to perform an empty flight ET-3728 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Hong Kong where it was to pick up cargo. However, according to an Ethiopian Airlines executive quoted by Aviation International News, the flight was modified at the last minute to deliver a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine to a workshop in Singapore.
After landing in Hang Nadim Airport (BTH), the flight crew was taken to a hotel while the plane was secured by military personnel, according to a spokesperson of the Indonesian Air Force. Two days later, the aircraft had not moved. Ethiopian Airlines argued that it did not seek to obtain an overflight permit as ‘in accordance with the ICAO Chicago Convention Article 5, by which non-scheduled flight can overfly the air space of a friendly country without prior permission.’ The airline said it was currently discussing the matter with Indonesian authorities.
This interception could also be a show of force from Indonesia, as the country desires to take over the control of the flight information region (FIR) over Riau Islands. Until now this airspace was part of Singapore FIR. “We want to show that our system is improving,” said Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan in a press conference, adding “Indonesia can now monitor people entering our territory without identity or permission.” However, Hang Nadim Airport director Suwarso, quoted by the Jakarta Post, said the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft had already received direction from Singapore’s FIR to land in Batam before the Indonesian Air Force intervened.