Joined: 22 Dec 2006
|Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 6:59 am Post subject: Suvarnabhumi Airport to close?
|BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Several flights scheduled to land at Bangkok's new international airport were diverted to another airport about 200 kilometers (125 miles) away after debris was found on a runway Thursday, airport and airline officials said.
The diversions came amid rising concern about the condition of taxiways at recently opened Suvarnabhumi Airport, on which scores of cracks have been found.
The government on Thursday established a panel to investigate the problem, which threatens to cut the airport's capacity as repairs are made.
Somchai Sawasdeepon, the airport's general manager, said an 80-meter (-yard) stretch of one runway had to be closed Thursday afternoon after some unidentifiable debris was found on it, forcing a cleanup and repair.
He said several planes that had been circling while awaiting landing had been diverted to U-Tapao international airport in Rayong province, 190 kilometers (118 miles) east of Bangkok, in order to refuel.
The planes later flew to Suvarnabhumi, he said, adding that he did not know the exact number of diverted flights.
Two of the planes were Thai Airways International flights from Singapore and Japan, the airline said.
``The repair shortened the runway, forcing many larger aircraft to use another one on the east. This caused heavy air traffic and delays. Our two aircraft had limited fuel, so we asked to be redirected to U-Tapao,'' said Thai Airways chairman Apinan Sumaneseni in a statement.
The discovery of the taxiway cracks, which began appearing about two weeks after the airport opened last September, was made public Sunday by lawmakers inspecting the airport.
Cracks at 25 separate locations made it impossible to use 11 out of 51 air bridges for boarding aircraft, causing inconvenience to passengers who had to take buses to and from their planes, Transport Minister Thira Hao-Charoen said Thursday after an inspection visit.
The cause of the cracks has yet to be ascertained, he said, adding that the ministry will take temporary measures to solve the problem as soon as possible.
``Permanent repairs can only be done after the investigation is completed,'' so that international standards can be met, he said.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand, which has carried out an initial investigation, suggested two possible causes for the cracks: poor construction, and excessive underground water seeping through the asphalt base and concrete surface, causing swelling and cracking. The airport was built on a swamp.
The contractors have claimed the damage was caused by water and vapor seepage.
After opening, the airport has faced several problems, including with its baggage handling system and computerized check-in services, leading to lost luggage and long lines for passengers. The designers also underestimated the need for public toilets and officials have said new bathrooms will be built to meet the demand.
Source - Northstar Travel Media Electronic bulletin