After THAI incident, Suvarnabhumi Airport to get new runway

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Heavy traffic at Suvarnabhumi Airport and Sunday’s incident with a disabled Thai Airways International aircraft which closed a runway for three days compels the Airports of Thailand (AoT) to build a new runway as soon as possible.

Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt insisted that Suvarnabhumi Airport needs a third runway to ease traffic congestion and to be prepared for emergencies.

THAI flight TG679 from Guangzhou skidded off Suvarnabhumi Airport’s eastern runway Sunday night, forcing its closure until Wednesday night, causing delays to hundreds of flights.

Chadchart said the new runway would not be longer than 3,000 meters following AoT’s recommendation that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) would be compulsory if it is longer than 3,000 meters.

However, AoT should conduct an EIA in conjunction with the construction, bearing in mind the possible impacts on people, he said.

Sita Divari, AoT board chairman, said AoT would strictly follow the Transport Ministry policy and would conduct an EIA during the construction.

He said the third runway would be reserved for emergency use.

AoT directors discussed the matter Tuesday together with building a new runway for Phuket Airport, he said.

Marisa Pongpattanapun, chairwoman of the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), said the third runway is necessary to prevent landing and takeoff delays as much as possible.

The transport minister has appointed a fact-finding committee to investigate the THAI’s airbus A330-300 incident. It took 65 hours for the aircraft to be moved from the runway to a hangar.

The committee was instructed to submit its report within two weeks in order to find measures to effectively handle such an incident at all airports in the future.

The committee must find out whether passengers were transferred from the aircraft in accord with required procedures, whether the media crisis management including covering the THAI logo after the accident was appropriate, and whether the post-accident aviation management was correctly done.