Still on the need of a 2nd runway for Cebu

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2014 - 12:00am

Last Saturday, we wrote the article “Why Cebu must have a second runway” and we got a letter from a faithful reader of our columns, Mr. Paul Pilapil, who comes from the town of Liloan, Cebu. He could very well be related to actress Pilar Pilapil). Since his letter is very thorough and lengthy, I’m reprinting this letter with his permission because he gives a technical side to why Cebu should have that second runway. So here’s his letter in full.

“Hello Mr. Avila, How are you today? I seldom write to the newspapers. But my attention was attracted. I have been with technical aviation for the past 3.5 decades. With your indulgence, let me contribute a few cents to the subject for the good of my native province. I grew up in Lilo-an, Cebu and now working for an American multinational in charge of international air carrier operations.  

Here is what a second parallel runway will give to the new Cebu Airport. It’s both technical and economic:

1.  Runway utilization and capacity - Most obvious. A single runway can only give you around 20 landings and 20 takeoff’s an hour, depending on what CAAP says is safe. 90 seconds to 2 minutes separation between arrivals and departures could be their standard. That is under normal conditions. With weather issues, that could decrease. Expectedly, with a second runway you double the airport capacity. Normally, you use one runway for departure, and the other one for arrivals.  

2.  Runway maintenance - A runway, especially the first 3rd of the length, gets hammered every landing with as much as 3x the normal weight of the landing aircraft impacting on the runway surface. And if you have hundreds of landings a day, you can imagine the surface wear and tear. That’s the reason why you have constant runway maintenance and that is why MNL airport often has a closure from 0130am-0430am everyday, almost all year round.  

And then there is also runway de-rubberization, where you have to regularly scrape the runway surface of rubber deposits from aircraft tires resulting from impact during landings. And with rainy season occupying over half of the year, runway maintenance works often overshoot schedules making runway availability more restricted. With a second runway, you do not have to close the airport for runway works, but just shutdown one runway for maintenance, but keep the airport open for operations.

 3. Contingency: Aircraft Mishaps – Landings and takeoffs are the most critical phases of the flight. And when you throw in weather issues during these phases of the flight, anything could happen. Look at what happened in Davao the last time. We closed the airport several days. With two runways, you do not need to close down the whole airport, but just close down one runway.  

4. Infrastructure FIRST – Rather than airport development chasing after aviation growth, just like the hole MNL is in right now, airport infrastructure development must take the lead and pump prime aviation. The infrastructure must first exist to attract and maximize investments that it would create in its wake. 

5. Alternate Airport Support– One should look at a country’s host of international airports as a team supporting each other. Now you have mainly Cebu, Manila and Clark international airports. If you have a line of thunderstorms, or typhoons moving overhead MNL, most likely Clark would be similarly situated because they are only about 50 air miles from each other.

Meaning, the aviation weather in MNL is almost always the same as in Clark. I mention aviation weather because there are landing minimum legalities pilots and flight dispatchers have to follow in flight planning. In this regard, if you are an international flight planning your alternate airport for possible diversion, where will you go?

But if you have a Cebu airport with two good runways, it supports Clark and MNL in terms of both diversion and also aircraft evacuation. Air carriers do not want their precious aircraft pounded by 50kts-100kts winds while lying helpless on the ground. So the bottom line is, if you have weather issues in both MNL and CRK, even if most of their flights divert to Cebu, they all could be accommodated at the same time because of its two runways. No congestion.  

6.  Over flights – The Philippines western airspace in our MNL Flight Information Region is a very busy air corridor where flights from North Asia trace this air route going to the southwest, especially Singapore. It’s a well- travelled air route both ways. Anything happens to any of these flights; they can always divert to Cebu with its fine airport with two usable runways and not bother to divert to congested Manila.  

7. Lastly, a wide international reputation of having a fine international airport with two very good runways attracts direct and indirect investments. Thanks a lot for your time to read my piece. Please let me know if you have questions. Paul C. Pilapil” At this point, we have successfully rallied Cebuanos to demand that the P14.4 billion that the GMR/Megawide group paid for the Mactan Cebu International Airport be used to construct the second runway.

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com


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