The transport ministry is selling a plan to develop Long Thanh airport, located in the eponymous district of the southern province of Dong Nai, to ease pressure on Tan Son Nhat, which is expected to become overloaded by 2017.

But Truong Thien, who says he “has worked at Tan Son Nhat for years,” said in an op-ed published in Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday that now is not the time to build the Long Thanh airport, as the financial plan for the new terminal is not convincing.

Long Thanh District is about 50km away from Ho Chi Minh City, where Tan Son Nhat is located.

“From the knowledge and experience gained after years of working at the Tan Son Nhat airport, I assert that the terminal is not overloaded and is totally capable of being expanded to reach bigger capacity,” Thien wrote.

He underscored the importance of developing an accurate and objective calculation to expand the airport, which now handles around 20 million passengers a year.

Factors to consider

“There are three main factors to consider: the numbers of runways, aprons and terminals at the airport,” he said.

The two parallel runways are 3,048 meters and 3,800 meters long, according to the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV). The runways are in accordance with the 4E classification of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Thien said.

The facilities can ensure landing and takeoff for large airplanes such as the Boeing B747-400 and Airbus A340-600, and even the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380.

Thien said many busy terminals, such as Singapore Changi Airport and London Heathrow Airport, also have just two runways but are able to receive tens of millions of passengers a year.

While the number of runways will not contribute to the overloading of the airport, Thien admitted that the lack of airport aprons will.

There are now 47 aprons at Tan Son Nhat, two-thirds of which are capable of handling medium- and large-sized aircraft, Thien said, citing information from the ACV website.

“Only around 70 percent of the aprons are occupied during peak hours at the airport, so in the short term there will be no shortage of aircraft parking areas,” he said.

Thien thus suggested that more aprons be built on the abandoned land plot managed by the Ministry of National Defense inside the airport.

“The national defense ministry has allocated part of the land plot to build 21 aprons and warehouses for Tan Son Nhat,” he said.

Thien also expressed displeasure over the fact that around 200 hectares of land north of the airport has been put aside for the construction of a golf course and resort, rather than aprons.

He concluded that it is totally feasible to expand the airport without having to relocate more than 500,000 neighboring households, which would result in billions of U.S. dollars in compensation fees.

As for the last factor, Thien said the passenger terminals at Tan Son Nhat must be enlarged, adding that this is not a complicated task.

“We have successfully scaled up the terminals many times before,” he said.

The departure and arrival zones of the domestic terminal are both located on the ground floor, and Thien said it would be much more convenient and provide more space for passengers if the sections were placed on different floors, as at many new airports.

He added that it is a waste to lease considerable amounts of space to restaurants and souvenir stores, which increases the cramped nature of the terminals.

Also in an op-ed published in Tuoi Tre last week, an economic expert suggested selling the land plot where Tan Son Nhat currently sits to finance the construction of the multibillion-dollar Long Thanh terminal.

The proposed sale should be made only after 2025, three years after Long Thanh has been on stream, he noted.

Tuoi Tre News - October 15, 2014

Thien said the current two runways at Tan Son Nhat are not associated with the overloading issue as they do not limit the number of airplanes taking off or landing.