LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/23 April)—Two single engine turbo-prop light planes made successful landings here Tuesday morning proving that the P7.8-billion Laguindingan Airport is safe and ready for commercial passenger traffic, aviation officials said.
First to land at the airport’s 2,100-meter runway was a small Piper Seneca plane followed by a Pilatus 12 turbo-prop plane carrying several technicians of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
“The airport is fantastic. Laguindingan airport is safe. It is comparable to the airports in the neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia,” Capt. Harry Lero, pilot of the Pilatus 12 aircraft, said.
Lero said Laguindingan Airport is more suitable for small and big planes compared to the old Lumbia airport which is located at a much higher elevation in Cagayan de Oro City.
“During the rainy season (Lumbia airport) is covered by clouds most of the time,” he added.
Department of Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Julianito Bucayan Jr., allowed Lero, the chief pilot who leads the CAAP team, to assess the safety issues surrounding the operations of the new Laguindingan Airport.
Lero heads the team who will do the evaluation and make several tests flights at the new airport.
“Nobody can question the safety of laguindingan Airport. We have the testimony of the pilots. The issue of safety has been addressed,” Bucayan said.
The undersecretary said that after the test flights it will be the turn of Philippine Air Lines, Cebu Pacific, Zest and Air Philippines to bring in their big planes to start their “probing flights”.
He said the probing flights will continue until the airline companies are satisfied with the safety at the airport.
On June 15, Bucayan said operations at the new airport will start as scheduled but will be limited from 6am to 6pm.
Cagayan de Oro traders have opposed the opening of Laguindingan Airport this year citing safety concerns.
In paid advertisements published in national dailies, the traders threatened to place placards around the airport once it opens.
Rudy Menes, regional director of the Northern Mindanao Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries said they are concerned that the new operations will be operating without radar and Instrument Landing System or ILS that would guide aircrafts to safe landings.
Menes said they are also worried with the limited operations of the new airport that would bring down airplane traffic from 28 flights to only 12 flights daily.
He said the old Lumbia airport handles 2,000 passengers a day, many of whom are tourists coming to Cagayan de Oro.
Lero brushed aside the safety concerns of the airport having no radar or ILS. He said most modern aircrafts are equipped with Global Positioning System or GPS to guide them to their destinations.
“As long as the pilots have a good visibility of 80 kilometers then it will be okay to land by Visual Landing System. This airport will always have radio contact with the pilots,” Lero said, adding the runway is visible from three kilometers away.
He said the runway is “well-paved and smooth” and can handle the landing of a Boeing 747.
Lero also dismissed concerns that the east-west orientation of the Laguindingan runway could endanger aircrafts from deadly crosswinds.
He said wind speed around the airport was clocked at around 20 knots.
“Most modern aircrafts can handle crosswinds with speeds up to 30 knots. There will be no problems in the landings and take offs here,” he said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)