Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 3 News List

MOTC study to decide fate of Songshan airport

SHUTDOWN?The study is to focus on whether Taoyuan airport would be able to accommodate all flights that would have to be moved from the airport in Taipei

Staff writer, with CNA

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has commissioned a feasibility study on whether Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) should be closed and its flights moved to the nation’s main international gateway in Taoyuan.

The study is focused on “technical” issues — such as whether Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport should be categorized as a dedicated international airport or one that accommodates both international and domestic flights — and the impact of expanding its services, the ministry said.

The study is being carried out by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and Taoyuan International Airport Corp, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year, it added.

The ministry said it would also examine whether the Taoyuan airport would be able to handle the additional flights if Songshan airport is closed.

The Taoyuan airport handles about 50 international and regional flights per hour, while Songshan airport handles fewer than 20 per hour, some of which are regional flights.

Since the 2015 crash of a passenger plane in Taipei’s Nangang District (南港) shortly after takeoff from Songshan airport, there have been calls for the airport’s closure amid safety concerns.

When the plane plunged into the Keelung River (基隆河) in Taipei, 43 of the 58 people on board were killed and 15 were injured. Two people in a taxi that was clipped by the wing of the falling plane were also injured.

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is one of the people who have been calling for the closure of Songshan airport and the relocation of its services to the airport in Taoyuan. The city government has said it plans to turn the land into a park.

The urban renewal argument has been supported by Feng Cheng-min (馮正民), a professor in the Department of Transportation and Logistics Management at National Chiao Tung University, while saying that it would take more time for Taipei residents to get to an airport.

He added that the third runway at the Taoyuan airport would have to be completed before the operations of Songshan airport could be relocated there.

The Taoyuan airport runway is expected to be completed by the end of 2025, five years ahead of schedule, while a new airport MRT line between Taipei and Taoyuan is likely to begin operations in the next few weeks, offering faster travel between the nation’s capital and its main gateway.

However, even with those facilities in place, there would still be the challenges of managing air traffic at the busy Taoyuan airport if it has to handle both jetliners and turboprop aircraft, senior air traffic control officers said.

The Taoyuan airport handles only jetliners, while Songshan airport accommodates some turboprop aircraft, they said.

Alex Lu (盧衍良), an assistant professor at the Department of Air Transportation at Kainan University, said the concerns about the safety of Songshan airport were being overplayed, citing Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US as examples of countries with airports in metropolitan areas.

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