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New terminal cause of concern for aircrews

Date Posted: 1998-03-28

Naha Airport is currently getting a facelift. Construction has begun in the building of a new five-story, 77,025 square meter domestic terminal, complete with a basement level, slated to open in March of 1999. An additional 1000 parking spots are also planned. The building, which will consolidate domestic flights, is a plus for travelers but seems to be a minus for pilots. Local pilots are complaining that the building will reduce visibility to the runways and shorten takeoff and landing capabilities. So far, the comfort of the travelers is winning over the safety concerns of the pilots.

Some major problems faced by aircrew and personnel at the terminal include limited visibility by pilots approaching the runway, virtually no visibility of planes and movements from the control tower, and the drivers of the tows who turn the jumbo jets will cause the wings to hit the buildings with the smallest mistake because there is such a tight space between the buildings. The terminal will block the view of the flight line for incoming flights, making landings more dangerous. From the control tower, only 1/3 of the terminal is visible and controllers will be unable to view or give instructions to ground personnel when tows are turning the planes. Also of concern is the limited space between the buildings. According to the Ministry of Transportation, Naha Airport Office, "a plane such as a big Boeing jumbo 747 or similar type of jet needs to be towed to change direction. Therefor, during the maneuvers, the wings of the plane might touch the building."

Officials are seeing more problems as construction continues but there are no current changes planned. Currently, planes are being moved by employees of each individual airline to alleviate worries felt by some of the controller personnel. The airlines have limited room to park the planes and jets because they share the airport with the Japanese Self Defense Air Force but it is hoped the new terminal will help to make the airport more inviting to passengers.

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