While the aviation industry is on the rise and airlines and commercial air travel are expanding rapidly, infrastructure, often slow to catch up, is becoming one of the main problems the industry faces. AeroTime has spoken with Chula Sukmanop, Director General of the Civilian Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) about current initiatives in Thailand to tackle the problem.
Thailand is working to expand infrastructure, preparing to build two new airports and add an extra ‒ third ‒ runway in the country’s busiest hub, Sukmanop told AeroTime. The work has been going on for a while now, and CAAT is in waiting of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study results before it can continue.
As for the new airports, they are planned in Phuket (South of Thailand) and Chiangmai (North of Thailand). Chiangmai airport, the country’s fourth largest airport, located near the main city in the north, currently has a lot of flights from Europe and South Asia, according to Sukmanop. However, due to noise levels, it is open only from 6 am to midnight. The current Phuket International Airport is located in a mountainous area at the country’s popular resort destination. Attempts to expand it by adding another runway would require reclaiming the land, which could, in turn, affect the nearby beaches, says Sukmanop. Therefore, a decision has been made to build a new airport, approximately 40 km away from the current one.
CAAT expects both new airports to be built within five years. The company that will take the project (Chiangmai and Phuket) is already picked, but it will need to obtain EIA before construction works can begin.
CAAT is currently doing a pilot project of what is known as Fixable use of airspace. Engaged in talks with the military, it is trying to open up more airspace, currently reserved for military exercising, for commercial aviation. The pilot project, already ongoing for six months already, is being tested in Bangkok, the most congested area in the country, and is to expand later on. While the authority is expecting the system to open this year, Sukmanop says that it will be fully implemented once ATC and military representatives currently engaged into the pilot project will be “comfortable” and “confident with the system”.
Speaking at AIR Convention Asia, in Bangkok on May 2, 2019, Chula Sukmanop has also revealed that the country is expecting ICAO audit in the coming two weeks. Back in 2015, Thailand’s aviation suffered a serious blow after it was red-flagged by ICAO over various issues, including breaches of safety standards by Thai budget airlines. The status was revoked two years later, in September 2017.