Mon, Dec 26, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Hengchun Airport given two-year reprieve

OPEN FOR BUSINESS:The airport, which reports annual losses of NT$60m, cannot accept larger airplanes and flights are often canceled because of a downslope wind

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) plan to turn Hengchun Airport into an international airport for charter flights would likely be given two years by the Executive Yuan to prove successful, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said yesterday.

MOTC Deputy Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that the proposal was put forward by the Pingtung County Government and that the airport would remain open.

The local government should be given two years to test if the plan is feasible, Wang said, adding that the airport would serve passengers arriving on charter flights or commercial jets.

The CAA said it is drafting the procedures that international flight passengers arriving at the airport would need to undergo, adding that the security equipment in the airport is still up to international airport standards.

Based on the CAA’s plan, Kaohsiung International Airport would be responsible for sending workers to Hengchun Airport whenever international flights arrive, including customs, immigration, quarantine and security staff.

The plan must be approved by the Executive Yuan before the service is made available, the CAA said.

Located near Kenting National Park, Hengchun Airport was launched in January 2004 and only offers flights between Taipei and Hengchun.

Three carriers were given rights to operate the route, including Mandarin Airlines, TransAsia Airways and Uni Air. However, flights were often canceled because of strong downslope winds.

Since 2007, Uni Air has been the only carrier operating on the route. The airline replaced its Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft with larger ATR 72-600 aircraft on the route.

The airport is unable to accommodate larger airplanes, making the service unfeasible.

No flight arrivals have been recorded at the airport since September 2014, CAA data showed.

Prior to that, arrivals numbers slid from about 23,000 in 2004 to about 11,000 in 2006. The number was down to just 2,448 by 2011, the CAA said.

Despite the lack of arrivals, the CAA still needs to budget for personnel and maintenance costs for Hengchun Airport, which reports annual losses of about NT$60 million (US$1.87 million).

The CAA had planned to shut down the airport and turn the property over to the military, a proposal opposed by the Pingtung County Government.

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