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By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Oct 5: Finally, Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) has obtained all the necessary licence and permits to operate the RM35 million mission aircraft to facilitate the department in protecting and monitoring the state’s forests and national parks.
FDS director Datu Hamden Mohammad said, the plane which was acquired by the state through federal funding will not only be used in Sarawak but would also be available for the use by other government agencies nationwide.
“The plane will be operational soon and we are very excited about it,” Hamden told DayakDaily when contacted today.
He said his department took delivery of the plane late last year but needed to get the necessary licence and permits before it could be operational.
“FDS just received the Certificate of Worthiness from CAAM (Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia) recently. Before it is fully operational, the plane will be flown for testing purposes. And that needs time,” he explained.
Hamden explained that the cost of the plane is about RM5 million but its accessories, which include maintenance, spare parts, training, capacity building for its support staff, took up the lion’s share of the cost.
“The operations of the aircraft would be run under FDS via Layang Layang Aerospace, which would also be responsible in maintaining the plan and providing technical support,” he said.
With the acquisition of the sophisticated plane, the tasks at hand for FDS would include among others, the technologies used in surveillance and mapping for their operations including detection of illegal logging, diseases and forest fires.
“These are important technologies because they serve to increase operational efficiency of FDS such as efficient monitoring and surveillance via the command centre without the need of physical presence on the ground.
“This will save time and manpower, and eventually with the data being analysed using high-technology application, it would produce outcomes that are more accurate and thus, provide the department with viable information for other activities,” said Hamden.
The acquisition of the plane has sparked controversies from the opposition but it was staunchly defended by the state government as a very necessary asset to guard Sarawak’s rich flora and fauna.
DayakDaily had earlier reported that the four-seater plane, a DA42M-NG Diamond, was purchased from Diamond Aircraft Industries, Austria. The aircraft will be able to take two technicians and two pilots for each mission.
With the acquisition of the plane, Sarawak will be the first state in the country to have its own fixed-wing plane to provide air surveillance and to monitor illegal logging activities.
The plane is considered so sophisticated that it can identify the species of trees below it. And it will be able to fly without refuelling for nine hours. Thus, it will be ideal for Sarawak with its vast geographical land mass
The acquisition of the plane as part of FDS’s New Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) to curb illegal logging is equipped with hyper-spectral imaging technology and will be stationed at the hangar of Hornbill Skyways in Miri.
The plane was bought using the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources’ (previously known as Natural Resources and Environment) allocation and once it is delivered to the state, it will be parked under the State Forest Department and will be managed and maintained by Layang-Layang.-DayakDaily