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Public opinion sought on Naha Airport expansion

Date Posted: 2005-10-06

Okinawa is growing, and public officials think the airport serving the prefecture needs to grow along with it.

Naha International Airport, with separate domestic and international terminals, is busting at the seams and needs to expand to meet demands of the coming decades. Officials say there are already too many aircraft taking off and landing, pushing both safety and services elements to capacity. Within a short time, officials say, there will be serious traffic jams.

Planning began three years ago for expanding the airport complex, and now the combined team of private, private-government and prefecture leaders are buckling down to begin transforming ideas to real plans. For that, they want public input.

Termed the ‘Okinawa Promotion Project of the Airport’, they want to know what Okinawans envision for the future. The current international terminal is old, dingy and inadequate to meet needs of even the five current international airline customers, officials say, and are calling for either major renovation or new terminal construction that would have appropriate immigration, customs, baggage, front counter and services space.

Similarly, the Naha Domestic Airport Terminal is only a few years old but approaching service capacity, particularly in frontline areas.

Okinawans are being asked to support an airport expansion project, which would involve flight line expansion as well as physical plant upgrades. Naha International Airport was a Japanese Navy Airfield in the years up to, and through, World War II. Oroku Airport in Naha became part of the American military airfields system after the war, but was returned to Japan following reversion in 1972. Two companies operate the airport, with one focusing on physical structures and plant, while the other handles the terminal and its operations.

More than 5,000,000 people now pass through the airport annually, and that number is forecast to increase as Okinawa builds its tourism and resort operations. Officials also point to plans to promote Okinawa as a regional air hub connecting Asian destinations.

Saying they think the airport should grow, prefecture officials now want the rank and file citizens to voice their opinions on whether they agree or disagree, and to offer specific recommendations on what they think are important for Okianwa’s future.

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