Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Sepinggan airport now ready for wide-bodied planes

BALIKPAPAN, East Kalimantan (JP): The newly expanded Sepinggan airport in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, is now ready to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft for international flights, Governor S.M. Ardans announced yesterday.

"The airport can now be used to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft transporting haj pilgrims from all four provinces in Kalimantan to Saudi Arabia," he told reporters after witnessing the arrival of a Garuda Indonesia DC-10 aircraft.

Garuda flew the aircraft carrying reporters from Jakarta to test the landing facility at the Sepinggan airport, which can also accommodate Boeing 737 airplanes.

The airport now has a 2,500-meter runway.

"The airport, which last year accommodated the transportation of 825,000 passengers, is now capable of accommodating 1.5 million passengers and 22,500 tons of cargo per annum," Ardans said.

More than 10,000 Moslems from Kalimantan, who went on the haj pilgrimage this year, had to fly to Surabaya, East Java, for the departure to Saudi Arabia.

The chief of Sepinggan airport, Kuntadi Budianto, said that the expansion of the airport was conducted jointly by Mitsubishi, Hazama, Kajima, all of Japan, PT Waskita Karya and PT Brantas Abipraya, both of Indonesia, under a contract agreement worth US$143.8 million.

Haj pilgrims

The airport, which is managed by the state-owned airport management company, PT Angkasa Pura I, is the second busiest airport in Indonesia after the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta.

Angkasa Pura I's president, Fachrie Zainuddin, said that Sepinggan serves the traffic of about 22 aircraft per hour, as compared to 40 aircraft at Soekarno-Hatta.

Ardans said that beginning next year, Indonesia will have five airports for the departure of haj pilgrims: Sepinggan, Soekarno- Hatta, the Polonia airport in Medan, North Sumatra, the Hasanuddin airport in Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, and the Juanda airport in Surabaya.

This year, 92,598 pilgrims departed from Soekarno-Hatta, 33,232 from Juanda, 16,565 from Hasanuddin and 12,872 from Polonia.

Ardans also said that the expansion of Sepinggan will likely increase the number of tourist arrivals to East Kalimantan.

"East Kalimantan is well-known for its adventurous sites, water and eco-tourism. The government has encouraged private companies to develop tourist facilities in the province," he said.

He said that 19,000 tourists visited the province last year. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics show that each foreign visitor spent 2.6 days in star-rated hotels in the province. (icn)