Air fright: Aussie pilots detained

Written By komlim puldel on Rabu, 22 Oktober 2014 | 20.01

Two Indonesian jets have forced an Australian pilot to land his small plane after he 'violated airspace'.

Air space ... Indonesian Sukhoi fighter jets have reportedly forced an Australian civilian plane to land for flying through Indonesian airspace. Picture: ADF Source: Supplied

TWO Indonesian Sukhoi fighter jets have intercepted an Australian civilian plane and forced it to land for flying through Indonesian airspace.

A civilian Beechcraft plane, in the air defence area of Manado, North Sulawesi, was crewed by two Australian pilots.

The captain's name was Graeme Paul Jacklin of Brisbane, and his co-pilot was Richard Wayne MacLean, from Burnside in South Australia, according to an air force spokesman.

Both men they were bound for Cebu in the Philippines on their plane from Darwin under the flight number VHR5S.

The co-pilot ... Richard MacLean from South Australia. Source: Supplied

But their plane was detected by Indonesia's national air commander radar.

Indonesian Airforce Brigadier General Hadi Tjahjanto said both men violated an official flight path as it passed above the Indonesian waters, around 8am local time.

Forced down ... two Australian pilots whose civilian plane was grounded by the Indonesian airforce for flying in Indonesian airspace. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

"The plane violated the official path around Saumlaki," he said, referring to a town in Maluku.

"Because they're civilians, the case will be under the authority of airport authorities."

The two Sukhoi Indonesian Air Force jets then followed the plane, asked them to land in Manado around 11.40am local time.

Questioned ... Richard MacLean, the co-pilot of the Beechcraft plane. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

As Mr Jacklin and MacLean taxied in, snipers lay on the ground, their rifles pointed at the Beechcraft light plane.

Both men were then escorted across the tarmac by armed soldiers. and told they must show all of their flight documents.

"After we checked, apparently they don't have the documents."

Police guard ... two Australian pilots whose civilian plane was grounded by Indonesian Airforce. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

The aircraft is a 1996 Beech twin-engine which has been registered to Mr Maclean since 2006.

Mr Maclean's wife, Kaye, told Fairfax Media her husband was a "ferry pilot" and that this plane had been sold and was being taken to the Philippines. She said there must have been a misunderstanding.

Escorted ... Richard MacLean walks with Indonesia police. Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

"He ferries planes all around the world," she said.

Graeme Jacklin's brother Greg (Jacklin) said he had spoken briefly with his brother about the incident.

"He's fine,'' he said.

"All I know is they were doing a ferry run.''

The case has been handed over to the Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado to pursue possible sanctions against them, it was reported.

The Commander of Sam Ratulangi Military Air Base in Manado, Colonel Hesly Paat, said the two Australian pilots were still being interrogated last night.

He said a team from Jakarta was on its way to further question the men, who have been stopped on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Being held ... two Australian pilots whose civilian plane was grounded by the Indonesian airforce. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

But he said the two pilots were not being detained as prisoners.

Colonel Paat said the pilot told investigators they were taking the plane to the Phillippines from Darwin.

He said they did not have the necessary permits to cross Indonesian air space.

"They don't have flight clearance to cross Indonesia. The plane was detected by our air defence radar, the plane could not be identified," Colonel Paat said.

"Apparently they don't have a permit to cross Indonesian air space. We didn't find any illegal or dangerous stuff in the plane."

"Now we are safekeeping the plane and the crew in the military air base."

Colonel Paat said the matter was still under investigation and he could not yet say what sanction the pilots would face.

Dramatic scene ... the civilian plane grounded by the Indonesian Airforce. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

The incident occurred just days after the inauguration of Indonesia's new president Joko Widodo.

In line with his election campaign comments, Joko has warned he will be tough on the issue of sovereignty.

Mr Joko has described as "unacceptable" the incursions of the Australian Navy into Indonesian waters during operations to turn back asylum seeker boats.

After being contacted by News Corp Australia, the AFP, DFAT, CASA and Airservices Australia are unaware of the incident.

CASA also said Qantas and Jetstar fly the same routes every day and would not be going off the beaten track.

In trouble ... one of the Australian pilots whose civilian plane was grounded by the Indonesian Airforce. Picture: Reynold Lumi Source: News Corp Australia

Indonesia has a history of defending its airspace rigorously.

In 2000 Indonesia-Australia relations were tested when five unarmed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) planes were intercepted.

At the time, Australia protested the "highly provocative" interception by two Indonesian fighter jets calling the action "extremely unusual".

In response, former President Abdurrahman Wahid said unintended territorial violations by other country's armed forces should be downgraded.

Last year a US military plane was ordered down without the involvement of fighter jets because it did not have the proper clearances.

And as recently as April this year, retired Swiss pilot Heinz Peier was intercepted after straying into Indonesian airspace.

Armed soldiers surrounded the 65-year-old when he landed his home made plane at Soewondo airbase, and demanded to see his licence.

He was arrested, then released days later when investigations found he had applied for a permit to enter Indonesian airspace but left before it was issued.


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