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Grounded: 2 runways in Vietnam’s major airports face closure

Aircraft and transit buses are seen at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.
Aircraft and transit buses are seen at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.

Two damaged runways at the major airports in Hanoi and HCMC could be closed on safety grounds.
The Ministry of Transport has called for the restoration and maintenance of “aviation infrastructure assets” at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.

It said that overload has caused visible cracks and deformations on runway 07L/25R at the Tan Son Nhat airport. Airplane wheel marks are also visible on the surface.

The situation is not better with runway 1B in Noi Bai airport. The runway has several cracking, peeling spots, and material is falling off from the expansion joints between concrete slabs. Some slabs have subsided.

Despite the degradation, the airfield system in Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat continues to face overload.

According to the Airport Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), runway 07L/25R at Tan Son Nhat had undergone renovation and was put into use in June 2013.

The runway can support B777-300 ER aircraft or equivalent with a capacity of 55,100 landings and takeoffs over 10 years. However, the total number of landings and takeoffs on this runway had reached 126,000 in April 2018.

Similarly, runway 1B in Noi Bai, in operation since 2003, was designed to accommodate B747-400 aircraft with 10,500 landings and takeoffs in 20 years. However, as of April 2018, this number had already soared to 284,200.

Without timely renovations, the ongoing overload could threaten flight safety, forcing the two runways to close down, said ACV chairman Lai Xuan Thanh.

The Ministry of Transport has estimated that the runway renovation cost would amount to around VND4.5 trillion ($193 million).

To ensure smooth operation of the airports, the Ministry of Transport has suggested that the Finance Ministry allows ACV to use revenues generated from the operations of aviation infrastructure to carry out immediately repairs.

The airports are administered by the central government. If the renovation task is handed over to ACV, they could use their development funds to carry it out.

Thanh noted that revenue from landing and takeoff at the airports is estimated at over VND1 trillion ($42.8 million) a year.

Vietnam’s aviation industry has experienced rapid development in recent years. The nation served more than 53 million air passengers in the first half of 2018, a 14 percent up from last year.