Soewondo Air Force Base

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Soewondo Air Force Base

Pangkalan Udara Soewondo
Polonia intl departure.jpg
Airport typeMilitary
OwnerGovernment of Indonesia
OperatorPT Angkasa Pura II
LocationMedan, Indonesia
Opened1928 (1928)
Closed25 July 2013 (2013-07-25) (commercial)
Elevation AMSL114 ft / 35 m
Coordinates03°33′29″N 98°40′18″E / 3.55806°N 98.67167°E / 3.55806; 98.67167Coordinates: 03°33′29″N 98°40′18″E / 3.55806°N 98.67167°E / 3.55806; 98.67167
MES is located in Medan
Location of airport in Medan, Northern Sumatra, Sumatra and Indonesia
MES is located in Northern Sumatra
MES (Northern Sumatra)
MES is located in Sumatra
MES (Sumatra)
MES is located in Indonesia
MES (Indonesia)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
05/23 3,000 9,843 Asphalt
Statistics (2012)
Aircraft Movement65,966
Source: DAFIF[1][2]

Soewondo Air Force Base (Indonesian: Pangkalan Udara Soewondo) is currently the military airbase of Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Before 2013, this airport served commercial flights, and was known as Polonia International Airport (Indonesian: Bandar Udara Internasional Polonia) (IATA: MES, ICAO: WIMK) which was the principal airport that served Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, about 2 km from the downtown, and used to serve flights to several Indonesian and Malaysian cities, along with a flight to Singapore and Thailand.[3] Previous international flights had been opened to Hong Kong, Taipei, Amsterdam, Phuket, Chennai, Johor Bahru, Malacca and Ipoh.

At the end of its service as civil airport, Polonia was the fourth largest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno–Hatta, Juanda, and I Gusti Ngurah Rai, in terms of passenger numbers.[4] Passenger service charges for each departed through domestic terminal was IDR 35,000 ($4.1) and IDR 75,000 ($8.8) for international terminal.[5]

All flights and services from this airport shifted to Kuala Namu International Airport on 25 July 2013.[6] Following the airport's opening, Polonia's ICAO code is changed from WIMM to WIMK, since WIMM is assigned for Kuala Namu.

Now as Soewondo Air Force Base, the airport belongs to the Indonesian Air Force. It hosts the Western Surveillance Wing including eight CN-235 tactical surveillance airplanes.[7]


Michalski's house in the 1870s

The airport's former name is taken from the plantation area owned by a Pole, Baron Ludwik Michalski in which it is situated. Polonia originates from the Latin name of the country of Poland. Michalski was a veteran of 1863 January Uprising against the Imperial Russian rule, after which he fled to Switzerland. In 1872, Michalski obtained a concession from the Dutch East Indies administration for a tobacco plantation in Medan. He named the plantation after the country of his birth, which at that time was not an independent state.

In 1879 the concession was handed over to Deli Maatschappij (Deli MIJ) or NV Deli Maskapai. In 1924, Dutch KLM test pilot N. J. Thomassen à Thuessink van der Hoop planned to fly on a Fokker F.VII in a pioneering flight from the Netherlands.[8] Therefore, Deli MIJ who controlled that piece of land handed it over for the land to become the first airstrip in Medan.

First landing on a horse-racing track in Medan
Fokker F.VII take-off from MES in 1940

By the time the news had arrived, it was too late to prepare a proper landing strip at Polonia. As a result, van der Hoop, together with Lieutenant H van Weerden Poelman of the Army Aviation Department and KLM flight engineer P. A. van den Broeke landed on a horse-racing track called Deli Renvereeniging and were greeted by the Sultan of Deli, Sulaiman Syaiful Alamsyah.

After this first landing, the Assistant Resident of Eastern Sumatra C.S. Van Kempen urged the Netherlands East Indies administration in Batavia to allocate the necessary funding to finish the airport at Polonia. In 1928 the airport was officially opened which was marked with the landing of six aircraft owned by KNILM, (not a subsidiary of KLM) on a temporary hardened dirt runway. From 1930, KLM and KNILM started expanding its network to Medan. It was only in 1936 that the airport's 600-metre permanent runway was finished.

In 1975, according to a joint decree issued by the Department of Defence and Security, Department of Transportation, and Department of Finance, the airport was jointly managed between the Indonesian Air Force and the Civil Aviation. From 1985, according to the Government Regulation No. 30-year 1975, the management became the responsibility of Perum Angkasa Pura which subsequently became PT Angkasa Pura II (Persero) after 1 January 1994.

Polonia Airport is now closed to commercial aviation and replaced by Kualanamu International Airport.

The airport's last arrival on 24 July 2013 was AirAsia from Bandung at 23:50 WIB. The airport was closed right after the last landing. The last activities in the airport were the ferry flights after official closing ceremony at 00:00 WIB and the cease of transportation at 00:30 WIB. The first ferry flight, a Garuda Indonesia aircraft, received a water salute before taking off from Polonia Airport and after landing at Kualanamu Airport. It carried the Minister of State-owned Enterprise Dahlan Iskan along with the Deputy Minister of Transportation and other officials.

After the ferry flights were completed, all of the Polonia Airport's activity officially shifted to Kualanamu International Airport. Polonia Airport is now used as an air force base.


Polonia International Airport Map

The airport is located on 144 hectares land area. There is a single asphalt runway (05/23) which is 3000 m long and 45 m wide, but has only 2,900 m of usable length. There is no run-off space beyond the runway thresholds, and the airfield is surrounded by residential areas.[9] It is often said that its location in a residential district, the wealthy Polonia area, is due to a superstition that the loud noises from aircraft drive away malevolent spirits.

Until recently, the airport consisted of an international and domestic terminal. A fire in the international arrivals area in 2006 caused damage to the airport, reducing the baggage reclaim area to a small section inside the terminal. On 2 December 2007, the domestic terminal was damaged by another fire.[10] There were no injuries, and the separate international terminal was not affected.

The airport suffered from overcrowding, serving 7,5 million passengers annually in facilities designed to handle only 900,000 passengers. The other problems were no orderly parking space for taxis, too many porters and garbage control.[11] These problems should be resolved by the construction of Kualanamu International Airport. Construction commenced 29 June 2006. It became Indonesia's 2nd-largest airport after Soekarno–Hatta International Airport and commenced operations on 25 July 2013.

Once, there was a dilemma of whether or not to upgrade Polonia International Airport, due to the delay of the finishing of the new Kualanamu International Airport. This dilemma made PT Angkasa Pura II pledge to fix access roads between Mustang Street and Imam Bonjol Street.[12]

Traffics and statistics[edit]

Overall Operational Statistics[13][14][15][16]
Year Passengers movements Aircraft movements Freight movements
Busiest Domestic Flights Out of Polonia International Airport by Frequency
Rank Destinations Frequency (Weekly)
1 Jakarta COA.svg Jakarta 290
2 Coat of arms of Riau Islands.svg Batam 63
3 Coat of arms of Aceh.svg Banda Aceh 42
4 Riau COA.svg Pekanbaru 42
5 West Java coa.svg Bandung 32
6 North Sumatra coa.png Gunung Sitoli 28
7 Coat of arms of West Sumatra.svg Padang 21
7 South Sumatra coa.png Palembang 21
8 Coat of arms of Aceh.svg Meulaboh 17
9 Coat of arms of East Java.svg Surabaya 14
9 North Sumatra coa.png Padang Sidempuan 14
9 Coat of arms of Aceh.svg Sinabang 14
10 North Sumatra coa.png Sibolga 7
10 North Sumatra coa.png Tarutung 7
11 Coat of arms of Aceh.svg Lhokseumawe 3
12 Coat of arms of Aceh.svg Singkil 2
Busiest International Flights Out of Polonia International Airport by Frequency
Rank Destinations Frequency (Weekly)
1 Malaysia Penang 99
2 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur 74
3 Singapore Singapore 42
4 Thailand Bangkok 7
5 Malaysia Johor Bahru 3
6 Sri Lanka Colombo 2

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 11 July 1979, a Fokker F28 of Garuda Indonesia Airways crashed into Mount Sibayak while on approach to Medan-Polonia airport. All 61 passengers and crew on board were killed.[17]
  • On 4 April 1987, Garuda Indonesia Flight 035, crashed into power lines and a television aerial in bad weather as it attempted landing at Medan-Polonia. 22 of the 45 passengers and crew on board were killed.
  • On 18 June 1988, Vickers Viscount PK-MVG of Merpati Nusantara Airlines was damaged beyond economic repair when it suffered a hydraulic system failure and departed the runway.[18]
  • On 26 September 1997, Garuda Indonesia Flight 152, an Airbus A300, crashed into woodlands 18 miles short of Medan-Polonia airport. All 234 passengers and crew on board were killed. Flight 152 is the worst aviation disaster in Indonesia history.
  • On 5 September 2005, Mandala Airlines Flight 091, crashed shortly after takeoff from Polonia. Of the 120 passengers and crew on board, 100 were killed. Another 49 people on the ground died as a result of the crash. It is the deadliest aviation accident involving the Boeing 737-200 series.
  • On 30 June 2015, an Indonesian Air Force Hercules C-130 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 121 on board and 22 people on the ground in one of Indonesia's worst Lockheed C-130 Hercules crashes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Airport information for WIMM". World Aero Data. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link) Data current as of October 2006. Source: DAFIF.
  2. ^ Airport information for MES at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
  3. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Medan-Soewondo Air Force Base profile - Aviation Safety Network". Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  4. ^ Biro Pusat Statistik, "Perkembangan Pariwisata dan Transportasi Nasional Bulan Juli 2006 Archived 24 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine" No. 45/IX/1 September 2006
  5. ^ Ridin (31 May 2011). "Polonia finishes access road improvement". Waspada Online. Translated by Bangun, Ananta Politan. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Kuala Namu International Airport to operate July 25". 17 July 2013.
  7. ^ The Jakarta Post, 24 July 2013
  8. ^ Paul van Weezepoel, "Dutch Aviation History". Retrieved on 2008-07-06
  9. ^ M Radzi Desa (12 November 2003). "Photo of final approach to runway 05 Medan". p. 1. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 24 December 2007.
  10. ^ "Fire destroys terminal at Indonesian airport". International Herald Tribune. Reuters. Archived from the original on 8 February 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2007.
  11. ^ Sis, Rany Listyawati (9 May 2011). "Analyst: Polonia must tackle management issue". Waspada Online. Translated by Bangun, Ananta Politan. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011.
  12. ^ Ridin (24 May 2011). "AP II promises to fix Polonia access roads". Waspada Online. Translated by Bangun, Ananta Politan. Archived from the original on 2 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Polonia International Airport". Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Polonia International Airport". Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  15. ^ "Polonia International Airport". Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  16. ^ "2009 Statistics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  17. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  18. ^ "Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 8 October 2009.

External links[edit]