A Guide to Spotting in Indonesia
Indonesia is a varied and interesting country for the aviation enthusiast.
It comprises more than 14,000 islands spread over a large area from Malaysia and Thailand across to Australia and Papupa New Guinea.
Because of this, air travel has been a vital lifeline for the country’s inhabitants and indigenous people who rely on this form of transport to reach their communities on different islands, and to connect with the rest of the world through the main hub airports. There are around 230 airports in Indonesia, however many more rough strips also exist in the remote communities.
The main airports in Indonesia are:
- Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International
- Jakarta Halim Perdanakusumra
- Denpasar Bali Ngurah Rai International
- Surabaya Juanda International
- Makassar Sultan Hasanuddin International
- Yogyakarta Adisucipto International
- Medan Kuala Nuptu International
- Balikpapan Sulta Aji Muhammad Sulaiman International
All of these, with the exception of Jakarta Halim, handled over 7 million passengers in 2015. Additionally there are busy airports at Batam, Semarang, Palembang and Pekanbaru.
Naturally the reason these airports are so busy is not because of tourism or the popularity of routes to other countries, but in the fact that there is an extensive domestic network of flights linking all of the islands and main cities by a number of different airlines in the country, and these flights are well utilised as a means of transport.
Because there are a great number of outlying communities in Indonesia, and many remote tribes and people who rely on government support for receiving food, medicine and building supplies, and transport to hospitals, the are hundreds of primitive landing strips scattered throughout the country. The airline Susi Air is particularly active in flying to these communities and featured on a recent TV series called Worst Place to be a Pilot.
Airlines and fleets
Indonesia fostered many new startup airlines during deregulation in the late 1990s. However, since then the government has cracked down on poor safety records and airline management, forcing a number of airlines out of business. Many airlines were banned from flying to the EU because of their safety record, where aircraft would regularly crash on landing due to poor training and adverse weather conditions.Today, alongside national carrier Garuda Indonesia, these are the main airlines in Indonesia:
- Airfast Indonesia
- Batik Air
- Xpress Air
- Indonesia AirAsia / Indonesia AirAsia X
- Lion Air
- NAM Air
- Pelita Air
- Sky Aviation
- Sriwijaya Air
- Susi Air
- TransNusa Air
- Trigana Air Service
- Wings Air
Most of these airlines are now operating more modern aircraft. However, for many years spotters would flock to Indonesia as one of the last strongholds of classic airliners such as the Boeing 727, 737-200, Douglass DC-10 and Fokker F28.
Spotting is not necessarily understood in Indonesia, but many spotters travel there every year without any problem. Thankfully many airports have ‘waving galleries’, where families will often gather to wave off relatives on a flight. Therefore it is normal to watch aircraft, but not necessarily to photograph or log them.
The best spotting locations in Indonesia are:
Waving galleries on the domestic terminal. There are a number of these, so try them all out to find a view of what you need. With this being the busiest domestic hub in the country, you will see a good range of airlines and aircraft passing through all day. You also have a view across to the maintenance and storage areas at the airport, so if any of the classic types are still lying around it is here that you’ll see them.
There is also a viewing gallery on Terminal 2. And there are two good spotting hotels here to view from (see below).
A corridor in the terminal has glass windows which look out onto the parking stands and runway. Alternatively, Kutra Beach is fairly close to the runway (although fences now restrict how close you can get).
The airport hotel (see below) is the best place to spot from.
Jakarta Airport Hotel
This hotel is situated upstairs in the International Terminal and all rooms look out over the gates and northern runway. The corridor leading to the rooms has windows looking towards the domestic side of the airport and maintenance areas. Perfectly nice place to stay, but can be expensive and is often fully booked.
Jakarta FM7 Resort Hotel
The FM7 Resort Hotel is situated close to the end of Runway 25R, and one of the main benefits is the proximity of aircraft approaching this runway, which can be photographed quite easily. Although the hotel is only two stories high, rooms on the top floor can be found that have good views and are not too obstructed by the surrounding trees. Some rooms also have views across to runway 25L, but SBS is necessary to identify them as they disappear behind the buildings. A rooftop Montezuma’s Bar area also has views – this is open from 5am-1am, with an additional roof area open at the manager’s discretion.
Surabaya Ibis Hotel
The best place to view here is the Ibis Hotel which is set within Terminal 1. Its rooms are above the terminal, and any facing the airport has a ramp and runway view, so you can spot and usually photograph as you wish.