Philippine carrier test-lands at southern Taiwan’s Hengchun Airport

Manila charter becomes first passenger flight to land at Taiwan’s southernmost airport in six years

Pingtung Magistrate Pan Men-an waves at charter arriving from Manila. 

Pingtung Magistrate Pan Men-an waves at charter arriving from Manila.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Philippine charter flight arrived at Hengchun Airport in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County on Monday (Sept. 21), becoming the first passenger airliner the airport has welcomed since 2014.

The Platinum Skies twin-turbine Dornier 328 successfully landed at the Hengchun Airport at 10:40 a.m. on Monday after departing from Manila. The flight is considered part of a trial run for the resumption of passenger flights at the facility, and Pingtung County Magistrate Pan Men-an (潘孟安) was on-site to witness the moment.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the pilots were instructed to stay on the aircraft and keep the cabin doors closed upon landing. The flight took off once again at 11:19 a.m. to return to the Philippines.

Besides the pilot and co-pilot, 10 cabin crew members and flight engineers, as well as five supervisors from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines were on the plane, according to CNA.

Pan said preparing for the test flight was a long process and that the Pingtung County Government had had to negotiate with 40 air carriers and travel agencies over the last four years to make it happen. He said the successful trial run is a "milestone" for the Hengchun Airport and proves it can still be a viable travel hub in the future, reported UDN.

After opening in 2004, the Hengchun Airport mainly serviced passengers on domestic flights between Taipei and Hengchun. However, by 2007, Uni Air was the only carrier still operating at the facility due to its location and the strong seasonal winds that are common between October and March.

Although the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) has considered shutting down the airport permanently, the Pingtung County Government submitted an application last year to extend operations for two more years. To solve its current predicament, the county has urged the CAA to improve the chances of international charters flying to Hengchun.