Close to midnight of August 16, a Xiamen Airlines skidded off the NAIA runway. This resulted to the closure of the single main runway 06/24 which resulted to massive flight cancellation, rescheduling, close to 34,000 stranded passengers, and thousands of airport and airline employees working overtime with minimum rest. Everyone had different sentiments but the one biggest single sentiment everyone had was that the Philippines badly needs a new main international gateway.
If you will look back in Philippine history, the first airport built for the purpose of commercial aviation in Metro Manila was Grace Park Airfield located in Caloocan. This was built in 1935 and was later used by the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company, later known as Philippine Airlines. Then commercial aviation moved to the Manila International Air Terminal in 1937 or Neilson Tower. It's runways are now Ayala Avenue and Paseo De Roxas in Makati City. It was in 1948 when the commercial airport moved to it's present site, adjacent to the Villamor Airbase which was then Nichols Field. The first terminal for commercial aviation was located where NAIA terminal 2 is presently located. The runway of the Airbase and the commercial airport were shared, now RW 13/31. It was in 1954 when the international runway and taxiway used by larger airplanes was built, which now is RW06/24. So basically from 1954 to present, the only runway expansion done was extending runway 06/24 going towards Multinational Road.
More and more terminals were built around the 2 main runways, the original domestic terminal (terminal 4), the present terminal 1, followed by terminal 2 and then terminal 3. Despite the addition of new terminals, runways remained the same.
Perhaps, we can say that poor foresight and very short term planning were the main causes why there is no hope in expanding our runways. If you will also look at how NAIA runways were built, they are perpendicular to each other, and not parallel. Also, runway 13/31, being a used for military aircraft like fighter jets before, cannot accomodate wide body aircraft. Also, there are limitations when landing at that runway. For take-off, RW13 can be used, but for landing, it's capability is limited. RW31 also cannot be used for landing since there are no guidelines for it. That makes 06/24 the only useable runway for all purposes, and once it is closed down, yes, the results were what you all witnessed during the last few days.
Despite also being two distinct runways, air traffic control does not allow aircraft to take-off at the same time from 06/24 and 13/31. While one is taking off from RW13/31, the aircraft from RW06/24 has to hold position before being given clearance to take-off and vice versa.
The government has long been planning to open up a new airport for years but up to now, all these are merely a "paper airplane". The DOTr has received plenty of proposals already from private entities like the Sangley Airport Infratructure Group that proposed to reclaim land by Sangley field in Cavite. The Super Consortium that consists of Aboitiz InfraCapital, AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, Alliance Global Group, Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation, Filinvest Development Corporation, JG Summit Holdings, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation plans to make use of the present location and expand it. San Miguel Corporation has also submitted it's bid to build the airport in Bulacan.
Clark International Airport is now underground expansion in order to accomodate more passengers that can be used as an alternative to the already congested NAIA. It is also the only airport in the country that has parallel runways, but pilots were saying that they cannot allow 2 airplanes to take-off and land at the same time due to their distance between each other.
Using Google Earth, we took shots of some of the International Airports of our neighboring countries Singapore, Indonesia, Jakarta, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Japan. Notice that all of them have parallel runways, barely perpendicular ones. We also took a shot of the present NAIA.
A parallel runway system which most countries use is very beneficial especially in an event of lets say an emergency landing or runway closure where airport and airline operations are not hampered. This also allows faster turnaround times for airlines and less delays.
We now want to hear your voices. Given the present situation in the country, how would you want our new airport to be built, where (Sangley, the present area, or Bulacan), and why. Please do check also the pictures of the international airports of other Asian countries just so that you would know how badly we need a new international gateway to the country.
This is Clark International Airport in Angeles, Pampanga. Though this uses a dual parallel runway system, they are too close by each other to allow two aircraft to take-off or land at the same time. If you will compare it to the other airports above, their runways are separated by the terminal, inbetween the two parallel runways. Distant enough to allow two aircraft or land at the same time, safely.
Also if you will look at our other airports are the Philippines, most do not have dedicated taxiways and exitways, only turn around pads. The only airports which have dedicated taxiways are NAIA, Cebu, Clark, and General Santos. A dedicated taxiway allows a landed aircraft to right away clear the runway in order to allow the next aircraft to land. Our present system at most airports uses a single runway with only a turnpad, that means right after the aircraft lands, the pilot will turn around and use the same runway as a taxiway to go to the terminal. Hence, the only time the next aircraft could land is after the first aircraft taxis, hampering turn-around time which may result to delays incase of heavy traffic.
The incident last August 17 is definitely an eye-opener on the state and condition of our airports. Not all the time, the airline is to blame for delays. We have to also understand the current situation of all our airports and we hope the upcoming Senate investigation in aid of legislation becomes an opportunity to greatly improve civil aviation in the Philippines.