Hengchun Airport could be turned over to military use

Taipei, May 30 (CNA) The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) is mulling the idea of turning Hengchun Airport in Pingtung County, southern Taiwan, over to the military after it has not seen a single passenger for more than 20 months. A military shooting range is located adjacent to the airport, and the CAA is mulling to transfer the airport itself over to the military, although it has yet to make a final decision.

Local people in Pingtung, however, still hope to keep the airport.

The Pingtung county government is also conducting research into the development of the airport.

But Transportation and Communications Minister Ho Chen Tan, who assumed the post May 20, believes that if development proves unnecessary, it need not be carried out.

From that point of view, it will be difficult for a low-efficiency airport like Hengchun Airport to have further development.

The airport is often affected by the high winds for which Hengchun is renowned. Three air carriers -- Uni Air, TransAsia Airways, and Mandarin Airlines -- used to compete for passengers on the route, but gradually lost interest.

Data shows that Hengchun Airport has not processed any passenger since August 2014. At present, only unmanned aerial vehicles, ultralights and training planes from flying schools use the facility.

Hengchun Airpoirt was inaugurated in January 2004. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications at the time had expected to give a boost to Kenting tourism.

But the strong winds forced the cancellation of many flights and by 2007, only Uni Air remained on the route.

CAA data shows that the number of passengers on the Taipei-Hengchun route was the highest in the inaugural year, with 23,000 passengers in 2004. But the number has since slipped, recording 11,000 in 2006, 2,448 in 2011, and 768 in 2014.

The data also shows that the most recent passengers on the Taipei-Hengchun route were in August 2014, carrying 21 passengers aboard two flights. From September 2014 to the present time, there have been no flights. (By Wang Shu-fen adnd Lilian Wu)