Hengchun Airport to start test runs for international charters

Taipei, May 2 (CNA) Hengchun Airport in Pingtung County might be reopened soon because the Executive Yuan has agreed in principle to a plan to use the airport for international charter flights for two years on a trial basis, Pingtung Magistrate Pan Men-an said Tuesday.The airport, which opened in 2004 with the aim of boosting tourism to the southern resort town of Kenting in the southernmost county has been closed since September 2014 due to the airport's extremely low passenger numbers and the Hengchun peninsula's seasonal strong winds that make landings and takeoffs dangerous.Also because of its short runway, the airport can only be used by small aircraft, most of which have only 72 seats.However, the county government has put forward a proposal for central government support to turn the airport into an international airport for charter flights.The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications then requested the county government to commission a feasibility study to assess the possibility of using the airport for such flights.Based on the results of the feasibility study that were released in late 2016, the Executive Yuan agreed to give the local government two years to test whether the plan is feasible, according to Pan.Pan said that after the county government discusses with the ministry concrete methods for implementing the plan, the trial run could start.The magistrate said the airport could serve as a boost for the government's "New Southbound Policy" which is aimed at forging closer economic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand and reducing economic dependence on China.He added that if the trial run can generate good results, the runway might be extended and equipment and facilities for night-time navigation might be improved to help boost passenger numbers and tourism in Hengchun.