By Froilan Gallardo of Mindanews
LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental—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 and then 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 neighboring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia,” said Capt. Harry Lero, pilot of the Pilatus 12 aircraft.
Lero said Laguindingan Airport is more suitable for small and big plane scompared 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.
Transportation Undersecretary Julianito Bucayan Jr., allowed Lero , the chief pilot who leads the Caap team, to make the assessment on the safety issues surrounding the operations of the new Laguindingan Airport.
Lero heads the team who will make 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 on safety has been addressed,” Bucayan said.
Bucayan said after the test flights, it will be the turn of the big airlines Philippine Air Lines, Cebu Pacific, Zest and Air Philippines to bring their big planes to start their “probing flights” to the Laguindingan Airport.
He said the probing flights will continue until the air line companies are satisfied with the safety of the Laguindingan 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 are against starting the operations of Laguindingan Airport this year citing safety concerns.
In paid advertisements published in national dailies, Cagayan de Oro traders voiced their opposition to the early opening of the airport and 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 aircraft 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 a day to only 12 flights.
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 guided by Global Positioning Systems 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,” said Lero adding that the runway of Laguindingan airport was visible from three kilometers away.
He said the construction of the runway was and that it was “well-paved and smooth” that it is capable for a Boeing 747 landing..